Inspired by one of Chinese poet Han Shan’s Cold Mountain poems, we brushed the characters for autumn moon – shūgetsu 秋月, at our online Shodo group Zen Brush. Some of us were lucky to catch a glimpse of the waxing crescent moon in the early evening above the horizon glowing yellow or orange 🌙 before quickly sinking into a blanket of clouds!
First Blair talked about the two kanji characters and their background and styles, fascinating to see how the shape of the pictogram for moon 月 had changed over thousands of years, and within the older kanji for autumn 秋 the fire and light of the sun on the grain as well as the insect too in some versions.
After some demos we worked on each kanji in the more boxy kaisho style and then the fluid curvy sōsho ‘grass’ style which simplifies and connects many of the strokes. The style that Blair demonstrated of the sōsho is based upon the master Chiei from the 7th Century Sui dynasty. His work is often copied by Japanese calligraphers.
It was delightful connecting deeply with this thought provoking short zen poem by Han Shan, looking at calligraphy inpired by it, and then writing part of it in shodo ourselves.
Please see some examples by participants in these photos.
We brushed 愛 Ai – Love, care, affection, craving/ attachment – at our Monday online Zen brush Shodo calligraphy 書道 group in October. It was inspiring to work with this single kanji (Chinese character) as it is so delightful to brush in the shodo styles.
With demos from Blair, we explored the kaisho 楷書 style as well as the faster gyosho 行書 and the very flowing sosho 草書 style.
Exploring the older tensho 篆書 style and the fascinating meanings of each part of the kanji and also as a whole, how the kanji changed over time with the claw shape, the connection to heart – shin or kokoro ❤️ which is within the kanji, this helped us engage with it more deeply and bring understanding to each stroke and stroke order.
The three parts of the kanji combined has a connotation of heartrending as well heartfulness. The varied meanings, type of strokes and movement in this popular kanji make it a great one to practice shodo with and also a nice gift for someone you care for.
The group enjoyed how the kaisho more boxy style moved into the gyosho style followed by the sosho grass style. The sosho is looser and makes sense to be brushed this way after getting a feel for the other styles. Thanks to the group for sending us some of their images including a bonus picture from Laura of her enchanting Daruma dolls, the legendary founder of Chan and Zen.
妙法 Myouhou – all life and things wondrous – was captivating to brush in the kaisho and sousho styles of Shodo calligraphy 書道. On its own myou means mystery, or excellent, strange or wonderful and hou can mean method, teachings, dharma, or process ✨
It was a lovely group of folk at our Monday Zen Brush online group. As well as some relaxing marks to get used to the fude brush and some stroke practice, we looked into the inspiring origins and meanings of myou and hou.
The curious sheep god shape in the old kinbun metal engraving of hou was fascinating, one participant remarked that it looked like a climbing sheep 🙂
The group enjoyed the sousho grass style which is very free and open after the defined strokes of the kaisho. Thanks to the participants for sending us some of their images.
Myoho appears in the poetic Lotus Sutra, which has inspired so much calligraphy and ink painting in China and Japan, here is an example from the text full of beautiful natural imagery.
Here is an example of stamped calligraphy (this is kokotsubun shell and bone style). You can stamp on your shodo calligraphy, artwork, poetry or sutra copying, or anything else you fancy 😊
This example is of stamped artwork by Blair was inspired by the dynamic skyline of Tokyo, using Japanese gansai pigments.
To join our stamp making online by zoom, you only need pencil and paper to get started. Enjoy and practice working with traditional tenkoku 篆刻 materials or the simpler keshigomu eraser to carve your very own hanko はんこ stamp.
In this video Blair has fun stamping a few papers, using the L shape to guide the alignment of stamps for shodo (very handy!), whilst going for a more squinty off angle approach on the artwork, and stamping in the middle of an enso circle.
Stamping is such fun, the physical pressing down and moment of suspense to see the stamp impression. After first designing the 印 – such as name or artist name, then carving or cutting into stone or eraser. It is enjoyable to work on each part of the process.
Blair is carving his zen name, using the insho clamp and into cutter. He can help you translate and choose suitable katakana Japanese or Chinese characters for your own name 😊
This picture is of some reisho 隷書 calligraphy Blair was stamping a few days ago✨
At Zen Brush we worked with the graceful eight strokes of eternal eijihappoh 永字八法, also known as the eight principles of yong – getting a feel for them and having some fun with the flow of the brush.
Inspired by some Japanese haiku and old waka poetry we brushed 永平 eihei – meaning eternal peace – also the name of Master Dogen and his Zen temple Eiheiji- which is such a lovely combination of kanji characters.
It was great to see the participants on zoom enjoying the shodo calligraphy practice, and embracing the two styles this month – kaisho and the fun reisho which comes from the cliff faces of China. Many thanks to some of the participants for sharing images of their calligraphy below.
With a buzzing cry A bee shifts on the bloom sought By a butterfly Taigi
At the last Zen Brush calligraphy group on zoom we were inspired by the two well known characters dou 道 (Way/ road/path) and shin or kokoro 心 (heart/mind/spirit).
Brushing them in the kaisho as well as the sousho ‘grass writing’ styles, we explored their meanings, as well as their combined poetic meaning when written together – inspired by poet, calligrapher and Zen master Dogen who wrote about Doushin 道心 as the spirit of the way.
His waka poem (translated by Heine) conveys this mood beautifully:
Seeking the Way Amid the deepest mountain paths The retreat I find None other than My primordial home: satori!
It was great to see the group enjoying the flow of the brush, particularly with the movement of the sousho calligraphy, and finding balance in their own way.
Folk worked with different sized brushes, ink and papers but were all absorbed by the strokes, shapes and feeling of the kanji 🙂
At our recent Zen Brush shodo group – our first online 🙂 – we enjoyed brushing the character 禅 Zen in four very different styles, which were developed over centuries. It was really intriguing to explore the meanings of the different parts of the kanji character and how this can be understood with the reading of it as zen and the connections with awareness, coming partly from the translation of dhyana.
After some loose marks and practice of horizontal and vertical strokes, we worked with kaisho style first, before going on to the sosho. We were inspired by the Chinese calligrapher Chiei with both these styles. He wrote these in his 千字文 Senjimon or Qiānzì Wén- Thousand Character Classic – a beautiful work.
Then we had some fun with the wider reisho and the taller more linear tensho , both fascinating styles to brush, which use a different technique from the previous two styles.
Some of us had large fude brushes and liquid ink, and some of us used smaller brushes or fudepen or brushpens, or solid ink, but we all had enough materials and time to appreciate the kanji and each stroke.
We talked a bit about how to practice shodo calligraphy to get a feel for the kanji zen, and also how to work on it more meditatively. Also we discussed how and where to write our name on the paper. So we covered a fair bit in this group, and had some fun too!
Inspiring video by participant AlanBlair writing Zen in the old Tensho, which was originally carvedBlair showing the fun contrast of method of two styles
At our Zen Brush 🖌 calligraphy group coming up on Monday the group will be working from the varied styles and strokes of the mysterious and graceful character 禅 for Zen. And we will explore the multi layered meanings within the kanji character itself. It can be brushed as a meditation too! 🙂