Tuesday, August 31, 2004

書道:The Literary Discipline

Anyone who remembers the governor’s daughter, Jen, practicing her calligraphy in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, or the sensuous and moving correspondence in the sand in Hero will understand the “cool factor” of Sino-Japanese brush and ink calligraphy. “Cool” is an utterly inadequate qualifier, however. 習字 (shuji—brush writing) is a discipline on a level with 柔道 (Judo), 剣道 (Kendo), and 合気道 (Aikido). It falls under 書道 (Shodo), the non-martial art of letters. It is no less a lifelong discipline than its martial kin, and can be a powerful means of projecting deep meaning, force and beauty onto paper. I have heard it said that some of the most treasured possessions of some universities in China are banners written for them by visiting persons of stature; Chairman Mao, for example.

At Kazamaura Junior High School the art of calligraphy is somehow integrated into the already extensive extracurricular activities. These students are working through their after-lunch break.

The shuji instructor is Abe-sensei, the 国語 (National Language) teacher.

He’s quite the old pro (although perhaps not on a plane with the masters).

I used to do shuji in my youth, but unfortunately I don’t have any action photos, or even photos of my finished works. Instead, I have included a photo of my shuji teacher and me at a museum in Ajigasawa displaying artifacts of the feudal seat of the first Tsugaru lord. Needless to say, this was taken some years back.