Nov 15, 2018
A calligraphy that is as much a celebration of images as words
On visits to Tokyo from my suburban Tokyo lair, I like to visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art at Ueno Park. The museum has international exhibits for paid admission, but what I like best is the exhibits of local people, for free admission, showing the talent and hard work of calligraphers, ceramic artists, photographers and others. Every month, the museum posts a calendar of local art groups' exhibitions.
Recently, I went to see a friend's work in the galleries. I noticed some original and interesting works. People do amazing things with the written word.
Hanya shingyo, the heart sutra, rendered in rakkan stamps on a scroll
I was surprised to see the heart sutra rendered in rakkan, hand carved stamps, a phrase at a time. If you want to read it aloud, with English translation, I recommend the American Beat Poet Alan Ginsburg's version. It's simple and elegant.
My friend rendered the 1000 word Chinese classic on a long and wide scroll. It took her two months. She wrote it in sections so that, if she made a mistake, she could toss it and try again.
In this 1000 word Chinese classic, which was used to drill Chinese and Japanese children alike, has no repetitions. It's an amazing achievement.
At work, I sometimes have to fill out forms in Japanese, loaded with kanji. It takes me a long time, first writing in pencil, and writing over in pen. Many times, I have to rewrite. I admire anybody who has the patience and skill to write such a long passage with beautiful strokes.
I highly recommend visiting the museum's citizens' galleries to see these frequent exhibits. You might get inspired. Or awed.