Calligraphy Inkstone

The inkstone (硯, suzuri, also sometimes referred to as “ink slab”) is one of the four treasures of a calligrapher’s studio (aside from brush paper and ink), although it is used in ink painting as well. Its history goes back to the New Stone Age era, 5000 to 6000 years ago, when various pigments were…

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Calligraphy Brush Handling

A new brush, with the exception of sabaki fude (さばき筆), has its hairs glued together in the form of a spike (so called katame fude, かため筆 – lit. “hardened brush”). Sabaki fude are sold with released hairs. To remove the glue layer, the brush needs to be rinsed under running water (tepid, but not hot!).…

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Calligraphy Brush Anatomy

There are two major brush making methods. One results in a type of brush we can commonly buy today, and the other so called in Japanese maki fude (巻き筆. lit. “wrapped brush”). The main difference is that the hairs of maki fude are strengthened with special hemp paper wrapping. Maki fude was popular in Japan…

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Choosing a Calligraphy Brush

In Japan, it is said that brush is to be chosen according to a rule of four virtues. These are: 尖 (sen) – The brush tip must be sharp and pointy. There should be no irregularities in symmetry or thickness of hair of the tuft tip. This is especially important for brushes used for writing…

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Calligraphy Brush Sizes

Calligraphy Brushes come in different sizes. The main categorization is numerical from 1 to 10. Brush of a sizing number 1 has a diameter of approximately 2.1cm at the base of the tuft (near the brush axis), while number 10 has 0.5cm, although depending on the producer those measurements may differ slightly. On top of…

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Calligraphy Brush (筆, fude)

The brush (筆, fude) is the most important out of the four treasures of the study (文房四宝, bunbou shihou). It symbolizes the extension of mind and body of the calligrapher. In this capacity it is much more than just a writing tool. The first brushes must have appeared around 5000 – 3000 B.C. together with…

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Four Treasures of the study

There are many tools that calligraphers use (penholders, brush pots, ink boxes, desk mats, paperweights, seals and seal boxes, raw materials, etc). However, four of them are essential to this art, not only because of their necessity, but also due to their symbolic meaning. They are called “four treasures of the study” (文房四宝, bunbou shihou).…

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Nushu

Nushu (or josho in Japanese; 女書, lit. woman’s writing) is a very peculiar script, and it is so due to few reasons. Until 1983 everyone was convinced that the Chinese writing system consisted exclusively of logographic ideograms (or sinographs), i.e. han zi (漢字, or kanji in Japanese). Nushu is an ancient syllabary created by women…

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Avant-garde Japanese calligraphy (前衛書道, zenei shodou)

The history of avant-garde calligraphy (前衛書道, zenei shodou) begins before World War II, although its raw idea was pursued only after the war ended. Precursors of this trend were a few master calligraphers of the early 20th century, who were cultivating further what grand master Hidai Tenrai (比田井天来) initiated in the 19th century. Today he…

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