Shodou (書道) is Japanese Brush Writing or Japanese Calligraphy. The term shodou translates as "the way of writing" although more commonly it is translated as "the way of the brush." The use of the character "DOU" (path or way) implies that Shodou is a philosophical pursuit as well as an art form.
Shodou has been practiced for over two thousand years. The tradition, developed in China, was introduced into Japan in the 7th Century. While still heavily influenced by its Chinese roots, the invention of hiragana and katakana have allowed Japanese calligraphy to develop styles which are distinctly "Japanese."
There are numerous styles of writing in Shodou. Students will often begin their studies by writing the basic strokes. Afterward, they will proceed through kaisho (regular or square script), gyousho (semi-cursive script), and sousho (cursive script). Other fonts include tensho (seal script) and reisho (clerical script).
Japanese calligraphy has often been linked to Zen thought. Perhaps that is because when creating a work, the calligrapher has but one chance for each sheet of paper. The brush strokes cannot be corrected. Each work is a reflection of the writer's state of mind at a moment in time.
There are four items indispensable to any practitioner or Shodou. They are the main tools with which he or she is able to produce a sakuhin or completed work. For this reason they came to be called the "four treasures of the study."
Other materials needed for the practice of shodou include a shitajiki (a felt pad placed underneath the paper) and a bunchin (paperweight).
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