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Hitsuzendo (筆禅道 hitsuzendō?), or the "Art of the Brush", is a method of achieving Samādhi (Jap.: samaai) (unification of individual with the highest reality). Hitsuzendo refers specifically to a school of Japanese Zen calligraphy to which the rating system of modern calligraphy (well-proportioned and pleasing to the eye) is foreign. Instead, the calligraphy of Hitsuzendo must breathe with the vitality of eternal experience.


Inspired by the teachings of Yamaoka Tesshu (1836-1888), the actual founder of the Hitsuzendo line of thought was Yokoyama Tenkei (1885-1966) as a "practice to uncover one's original self through the brush." Hitsuzendo was developed by Omori Sogen Roshi as a way of Zen practice. It is practised on the standing, using a large brush and ink, usually on newspaper roll. This way, the whole body is used to guide the brush, in contrast to writing at a table.

Calligraphy History

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Calligraphy was brought to Japan from China and Chinese masters such as Wang Xizhi 王羲之 (Jp: Ou Gishi; 303-361) have had a profound influence , especially on the karayo style which is still practiced today. The indigenous Japanese the wayo tradition (和様書道, wayoshodo) only appeared towards the end of the Heian era. However the calligraphy of Zen scholars was often more concerned with spiritual qualities and individual expression and shunned technicalities which lead to unique and distinctly personal styles.[1]

Japanese calligraphy has three basic styles: Kaisho 楷書, Gyōsho 行書, and Sōsho 草書. The latter is a flowing style composed with swift strokes. Its free movement and beauty has made Sōsho the most popular style with calligraphy masters. Japanese calligraphy is given merit not only for its style, beauty, and meaning, but also for the character of the calligrapher which can be seen in the Kanji that is written.

Zen Calligraphy (Hitsuzendou)

True creativity is not the product of consciousness but rather the "phenomenon of life itself." True creation must arise from mu-shin 無心, the state of "no-mind," in which thought, emotions, and expectations do not matter. Truly skillful Zen calligraphy is not the product of intense "practice;" rather, it is best achieved as the product of the "no-mind" state, a high level of spirituality, and a heart free of disturbances.

To write Zen calligraphic characters that convey truly deep meaning, one must focus intensely and become one with the meaning of the characters they create. In order to do this, one must free his/her mind and heart of disturbances and focus only on the meaning of the character. Becoming one with what you create, essentially, is the philosophy behind Zen Calligraphy & other Japanese arts.

Notes and references

  1. Nakata, Yujiro. (1973) "The Art of Japanese Calligraphy", Weatherhill/Heibonsha, New York/Tojyo ISBN 0-8348-1013-1
  • Terayama, Tanchu, Zen Brushwork - Focusing The Mind With Calligraphy And Painting ISBN 4-7700-2944-6
  • Kuwahara, Kokugyo, Website with examples of Hitsuzendo

See also

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