Today I began shuuji (i.e. calligraphy) lessons from a guy who had advertised his services on the internet. I had been looking for a shuuji teacher for months, and serendipitously found Ransui-san just a couple of weeks ago. He is more famous for his ink paintings than his calligraphy, and exhibits regularly in London. Calligraphy, however, is the starting point for ink painting, and he is a licensed expert in the art.
Like most artifacts of Japanese culture, writing entered Japan from China about 1,500 years ago, and the art of calligraphy was one that was practiced by members of the imperial Court, by monks, and, later, by warriors. It was closely associated with the writing of poetry, not only the Chinese classics, but also Japanese renga (linked verse), and the better known haiku.
I have been an enthusiastic student of the Japanese language for 17 years now, and being able to adequately speak and read it, writing it with style is a new frontier. I am also an aficionado of poetry and intend also to get closer to poetry through calligraphy.
I met Ransui-san today in front of Odakyu department store in Shinjuku, we had lunch together at a cafe, then went to the huge Sekaido stationery store nearby to buy the necessary implements for the new venture. My favorite implement is the bunchin, or paperweight. I was torn between a whale and a fish, but went for the fish. We then went to his apartment out at Musashiseki and had our first lesson.
The starting point was the writing of the kanji (i.e. Chinese character) for 'flower' (hana). You can see my first attempt above. Rather clumsy, but 'not too bad at all' I was kindly told.
There are five basic writing styles for kanji, with a maximum of twelve. I'm starting with the basic kaisho style and will branch out into others once I've mastered it.
The best advice my teacher gave me today? 'If you're having trouble getting into it, take a break, have a beer, then see how you feel.'
Read about Japanese haiku here Japanese Culture/Haiku.
Sunday, October 16, 2005