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History and Origins of Zen Calligraphy

Few cultures embody the quest for enlightenment like the Japanese. One of the valuable aspects of the Japanese culture is the ancient art of calligraphy. Calligraphy made its way to the island of Japan within the hands of Chinese Buddhist monks until the fourth century. At that time, Japan developed its own style of calligraphy that was influenced by the Zen Buddhists.

One major type of Japanese calligraphy is Hitsuzendo. This type of calligraphy is a school of Zen Calligraphy and focuses on the artist as an individual at the moment the artwork is created. This exercise is taxing on the artist and takes years of practice, since even the slightest amount of doubt shows in a brushstroke. Zen calligraphers have always tried to attain the highest level of enlightenment and self-actualization. They believe that this is achievable and visually represented by practicing the art of Zen calligraphy.

Hitsuzendo - The Art of the Brush

Hitsuzendo refers to the school of Zen calligraphy that focuses on utilizing the entire body to create a piece of art while existing in a conscious-less state of mind. Instead of intently concentrating on the perfection of the character they produce, Hitsuzendo practitioners attempt to achieve a level of mental activity that goes beyond conscious thought and intention. The goal is to let go of the reality that surrounds and saturates the mind and allow the human to create a perfect piece of art work.

The Enso - The Circle of Confidence in Existence

One of the main exercises in the school of Hitsuzendo is the creation of the Enso, or circle. A perfect circle is a challenging object for any individual to draw. Zen calligraphers often repeat drawing the Enso over and over trying to produce a perfect circle. Producing a perfect circle would mean the individual is close to achieving enlightenment in their art.

Practicing Zen calligraphy is an exercise in attaining enlightenment. The characters produced in these magnificent works of art are simple to create in their basic structure but take a lifetime to perfect in their delicate subtleties of human movement and intention. Enlightenment is reached when the artist is able to detach themselves from reality and create a piece of art without any conscious intention.