Zen Brushwork: Focusing the Mind with Calligraphy and Painting

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With its bold strokes and mystic aura, Zen calligraphy has fascinated Westerners for decades, yet it remains an abstract, rarely practiced form of expression outside of Asia. Now, master calligrapher Tanchu Terayama explains the techniques behind this subtle art and offers step-by-step instructions for practicing it on a professional level.

After introducing the basics, Terayama presents a unique meditative warm-up to establish the proper mental attitude needed to release one's ...

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Overview

With its bold strokes and mystic aura, Zen calligraphy has fascinated Westerners for decades, yet it remains an abstract, rarely practiced form of expression outside of Asia. Now, master calligrapher Tanchu Terayama explains the techniques behind this subtle art and offers step-by-step instructions for practicing it on a professional level.

After introducing the basics, Terayama presents a unique meditative warm-up to establish the proper mental attitude needed to release one's creative energies. Next, the power of the brushed line is explained and demonstrated. What makes a good line or a bad one, an expressive effort or an unfocused one? Lessons on brushing symbolic Japanese characters follow, including those for "emptiness," "nothingness," and "flower." The painting section shows readers how to draw the spare yet elegant pictorial themes of this classic art: bamboo, plum blossoms, Mount Fuji, and the inspirational Zen priest Daruma.

If the exercises are the heart of the book, the Appreciation section is the soul. This chapter introduces classic works from renowned priests and other historical figures, including Miyamoto Musashi (the celebrated swordsman and author of The Book of Five Rings), Morihei Ueshiba (the founder of aikido), Jigoro Kano (the father of judo), and Zen priest Hakuin. Each masterpiece is accompanied by penetrating commentary on the strengths and salient features of the work.

Rarely has Zen calligraphy been demonstrated and discussed with such candor and insight. Illuminating yet another side of Zen, Zen Brushwork will be an invaluable source to those interested in meditation, Zen, Buddhism, the martial arts, and Oriental traditions in general.

About the Authors:
Tanchu Terayama is a professor at Nishogakusha University and the co-author of Zen and the Art of Calligraphy. His collection of historic calligraphy was the subject of an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

Thomas F. Judge is a Japanese-English translator now based in the San Francisco area. He has lived in Kanazawa, Osaka, and Tokyo, where he pursued his interest in Japanese crafts. He is the author of Edo Craftsmen: Master Artisans of Old Tokyo, a look at living craftspeople working in traditional crafts.

John Stevens is Professor of Buddhist Studies, as well as Aikido Instructor, at Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, Japan. He has been associated with Tanchu Terayama for nearly thirty years and has written a biography of Yamaoka Tesshu, The Sword of No-Sword, as well as many other books on various aspects of Asian culture.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Instructional books on Asian art too often give the impression that such techniques are simple and spontaneous enough to be learned with just a little practice. Master calligrapher Terayama, who takes the art seriously on many levels, explains that the Way of the Zen Brush is "a means of representing the relationship between the mind, body, and universe." He emphasizes the near-mystical nature of the art, practiced for centuries by Zen monks and nuns. After introducing the basics, Terayama presents a meditative warmup to establish the proper mental attitude for releasing creative energies. He explains the power of the brushed line, followed by lessons on brushing symbolic Japanese characters, such as those for the words emptiness, nothingness, and flower. A painting section features the classic themes of this art: bamboo, plum blossoms, Mount Fuji, and the Zen priest Daruma. The final section includes a gallery of works by the old masters, with expert commentary by Terayama. Highly recommended for all serious collections; for a lighter approach, general collections may want Naomi Okamoto's Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9784770029447
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA
  • Publication date: 1/9/2004
  • Pages: 96
  • Product dimensions: 11.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

TANCHU TERAYAMA is a professor at Nishogakusha University and the co-author of Zen and the Art of Calligraphy. His collection of historic calligraphy was the subject of an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

THOMAS F. JUDGE is a Japanese-English translator now based in the San Francisco area. He has lived in Kanazawa, Osaka, and Tokyo, where he pursued his interest in Japanese crafts. He is the author of Edo Craftsmen: Master Artisans of Old Tokyo, a look at living craftspeople working in traditional crafts.

JOHN STEVENS is Professor of Buddhist Studies, as well as Aikido Instructor, at Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, Japan. He has been associated with Tanchu Terayama for nearly thirty years and has written a biography of Yamaoka Tesshu, The Sword of No-Sword, as well as many other books on various aspects of Asian culture.

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Table of Contents

Introduction
Part I Background
What is Zen Calligraphy?
The Evolution of Kanji
The Fundamentals of Calligraphy
The Four Treasures of Calligraphy
Hitsuzendo
Part II Preparationo (Calligraphy) and Practice Lines
Further Practice
Sosho (Grass Script)
exercise 7: Mu (Nothing)
exercise 8: Hana (Flower)
exercise 9: Ku (Emptiness)
exercise 10: Mu Ichi Motsu (Owning No-thing)
exercise 11: Ichigyo Zanmai (Be in the Moment)
Writing Western Script
exercise 12: Writing Western Script: ABC
exercise 13: Shodo (Calligraphy)
Painting
exercise 14: Orchid
exercise 15: Bamboo
exercise 16: Plum Blossoms (with inscription)
exercise 17: Mount Fuji
exercise 18: Daruma
exercise 19: Wall-Gazing Daruma
exercise 20: "One-Stroke" Daruma
exercise 21: Ji-Wa-Choku (Compassion, Harmony, Honesty)
Part IV Appreciation
Works by Old Masters
Works by Terayama Tanchu
Glossary
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Introduction

Sho, the art of brush calligraphy, has always been highly regarded as an art form in the Far East. Although the hand of the artist can be seen in any work of art, it has long been said that sho is the artist. The pliant hairs of the brush, the life force of the carbon that constitutes the ink, and the spontaneity of the brushed letters all work together to express the spirit of the calligrapher.

The calligrapher must become one with the brush if the brush is to come to life. The ink can be thought of as a subtle substance that expresses life and death, and the brushstroke as an opportunity for expression that embodies the whole of the artist.

To become one with the brush means eliminating the self and infusing the ink with the spirit to make each brushstroke resonate with vital energy. The ability to manifest one's strength comes only through dedicated practice.

As a basic exercise, drawing a single straight line is ideal. This line is called the mujibo, the "Zen line," or the "line of nothingness." This single stroke can be taken as the basis of sho. To draw a single stroke does not call for any special technique; all that is required is simply to grasp the brush firmly between the thumb and fingers, keep the brush shaft vertical, and then, while slowly exhaling, pull the brush with all your strength, as if dragging a heavy stone. As with many art forms, sho can be very revealing. A person whose heart is clouded will not be able to draw a line that shines with purity. A person shallow in experience or cultivation cannot draw a line that reveals depth. A person lacking vitality will not draw a line that resonates with energy. Even a single straight line can be a mirror of the spirit.

In Chinese art, sho and painting are thought of as one. All paintings begin from sho: the brushstrokes that make up the characters in calligraphy are the same strokes that form the elements of an ink painting. Anyone who can brush a single vibrant stroke can apply this ability to brush an enso (Zen circle), or to paint an orchid, bamboo, or landscape.

Writing words and phrases in kanji (Chinese characters), which themselves hold a certain mystique, raises calligraphy to a higher, spiritual level. This spirituality is expressed in sho through creative brushwork that plays on the shape and nuanced meanings of the kanji.

Over the centuries, Zen monks and nuns have brushed many classic works of calligraphy and painting. Calligraphy has long been appreciated as an art form in the Western world as well. Some Western artists, such as the French fauvist expressionist Georges Rouault (1871-1958) and Spanish surrealist Joan Miro (1893-1983), were drawn toward calligraphy in their later years. For those who are fascinated with art, sho can be seen as a form of true artistic expression.

Hitsuzendo, the Way of the Zen Brush, is a form of calligraphy based on the principles of Zen. Artists who practice Hitsuzendo use sho as a means of representing the relationship between the mind, body, and universe. It may take a lifetime to develop brushwork that truly expresses ki, the basic life energy or spiritual life force. With practice, one's efforts in Hitsuzendo increase in depth and vitality with each passing year.

Through methods such as establishing high goals for oneself, working on breathing, and delving deeply into your inner resources to find your true expression, the practitioner of Hitsuzendo is able to express universal mind and body with each brushstroke, and in the process, achieves ever greater profundity.

Terayama Tanchu

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  • Posted April 18, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Clear Look at the Zen Art of Calligraphy I have reviewed dozens

    Clear Look at the Zen Art of Calligraphy

    I have reviewed dozens of texts concerning the art of Shodo, but this one really stands out as exceptional. I'm familiar with the work of one of its translators, zen master John Stevens, who also wrote Sacred Calligraphy of the East.

    What's really interesting about this book is how you can really see the variety in approaches to the same form of even the same subject. There is a great page that shows the same character done by the same artist but at three different ages. Because of the simplicity of the art form you can see how styles differ and/or progress and reflect the state of the practitioner.

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