Japanese Calligraphy History

Japanese Calligraphy

One can trace shodou's history to China, where the master Wang Xizhi is credited with the creation of the art. Shodou was first introduced into Japan in the 8th century. The early Heian contemporaries Kuukai, Emperor Saga, and courtier Tachibana no Hayanari are respectfully known as the Sanpitsu (Three Great Brushes), and their calligraphy is considered a true representation of Chinese calligraphy's timeless beauty.

In the 10th and 11th centuries these three were succeeded by the Sanseki (Three Traces): Ono no Toufuu, Fujiwara no Sukemasa, and Fujiwara no Yukinari. These three masters developed what would become the first uniquely Japanese calligraphy style, wayou (also joudaiyou). Fujiwara no Yukinari's style led to the creation of the Sesonji school, and Ono no Toufuu served as an archetype for the Shouren'in school which later became the Oie style of calligraphy. The Oie style was used for official documents in the Edo period and was the prevailing style taught in the terakoya schools of that time.

Just as calligraphy has evolved over time, its broad latitude for creativity and the increasing number of women masters today characterizes the resurgent interest in calligraphy.