Calligraphy history in Japan (日本の書道史)

Calligraphy history in Japan covers from ancient times to present day. In this article, calligraphy-related historical achievements, such as the backgrounds, calligraphic styles, calligraphic samples, calligraphers, and education, are described for each historical period, up to the Showa period.


Calligraphy in Japan started when Chinese characters were brought to Japan.

Sutras were copied widely, and the calligraphic style of the Jin and Tang dynasties became the vogue. Then Buddhism was brought to Japan, and promoted by Prince Shotoku during the Asuka period and by Emperor Shomu during the Nara period, sutras were copied widely, making calligraphy in Japan develop rapidly. In addition, since the envoys to Sui Dynasty and Tang Dynasty China directly brought back Chinese culture, the calligraphic style of the Jin and Tang dynasties became the vogue.
In particular, Emperor Saga during the early Heian period liked the Tang style, and his calligraphy, together with that of Kukai and of TACHIBANA no Hayanari, was modeled on the Jin and Tang dynasties

The Japanese style became established, and calligraphy in Japan became divided into the Chinese and the Japanese styles, starting with bokuseki (the Chinese style brought by Zen priests from China) that rapidly became popular. These three great calligraphers did not end simply by imitating the calligraphy, but left a lot of spirited calligraphy to Japanize the Chinese style. Then during the middle era of the Heian period, the Tang dynasty declined and sending an envoy to Tang Dynasty China ceased, causing Japanese style culture to establish and generating "kana" characters. Furthermore, the three great calligraphers Japanized Chinese character-writing styles, and the Japanese calligraphic style became complete then. This Japanese calligraphic style branched out during the Kamakura period, generating various Japanese calligraphic styles. In addition, Chinese priests came to Japan during this period, and Japanese Zen priests and Chinese Zen priests introduced a Chinese calligraphic style into Japan again. This calligraphic style by Zen priests was called the Chinese calligraphic style in Japan, and was handed down and developed during the Edo period and later as the Chinese calligraphic style in Japan. On the other hand, concerning the Japanese style, the Sonen style was employed by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) for its official documents. In this way, calligraphy in Japan was divided into the Chinese style and the Japanese style.

The six-dynasty style became popular, and the ancient style was restored. Entering the Meiji period, because many of the leaders of Japan in this period studied the Chinese classics, Chinese style calligraphy gradually became dominant. Then Yang Shoujing in Qing came to Japan bringing inscriptions and copybooks from the six dynasties in the Han and Wei (three dynasties) era, giving a great shock to the Japanese calligraphic world. Affected by this, calligraphy in the six-dynasty style became popular, centered on the efforts of Ichiroku IWAYA, Sekka MATSUDA, and Meikaku KUSAKABE.

Corresponding to this situation, the Japanese style of writing Chinese characters declined and the Chinese one was innovated by the six-dynasty style. However, concerning the calligraphic style of writing kana characters, Shinai TADA, Shugyo OGUCHI, and Gado ONO restored the ancient style, based on the movement of restoring traditional cultural heritage during the middle era of the Meiji period. Then the base of the Chinese character calligraphy of today was established by Meikaku KUSAKABE and Shundo NISHIKAWA. On the other hand, in the world of the kana character calligraphy, Gado ONO brought up many followers.

The history of the modern calligraphic society started and modern-style calligraphy appeared. Towards the end of the Taisho period, a calligraphy-related body where almost all the calligraphers at that time participated in was organized, and they held a big calligraphic exhibition annually. This body named "Nihon Shodo Sakushin Kai" (literally, an association for promoting calligraphy in Japan) was organized through efforts of Shunkai BUNDO, starting the history of the modern calligraphic society in Japan. Then through many changes, big, stable bodies of "Taito Shodo-in" (the Taito calligraphic association) "Toho Shodo-kai" (the Toho calligraphic association) and "Dainihon Shodo-in" (the Dainihon (literally, great Japan) calligraphic association) have been established. "Dainihon Shodo-in" was organized centered on Tenrai HIDAI, a follower of Meikaku KUSAKABE, and followers of Tenrai started an effort for creating modern-style calligraphy.

The Asuka period and before

Chinese culture, such as Chinese characters and Buddhism, was brought to Japan via the Korean peninsula.

Chinese characters were brought to Japan.

"Nihonshoki" (Chronicles of Japan) and "Kojiki" (records of ancient matters) include the following descriptions: Because of being familiar with Buddhist scriptures, Achiki (Achikishi in Kojiki), an emissary of Kudaranokonikishi (King of Paekche), became a teacher of Prince Iratsuko UJINOWAKI in 284 during the era of Emperor Ojin, and Wa Ni (Wang In) (Wanikishi in Kojiki) who was introduced by Achiki and came to Japan and presented ten volumes of "Rongo Analects" and "Senjimon" (a poem consisting of one thousand Chinese characters) to the Imperial court.

Calligraphic samples brought to Japan in this period
貨泉 (kasen in pronunciation: a coin)
In 8 A.D., Omo, a maternal relative of the emperor of Former Han, destroyed Han to establish the "Shin" dynasty. Copper coins produced only in this era were found in a Yayoi period tumulus. With the tensho-tai (seal-engraving style of writing Chinese characters) style Chinese characters of 貨泉 cast in it, this copper coin was called 貨泉 (kasen). According to Shi Hugo Zhan (records on economy) of "Kanjo" (historical records of the Han Dynasty), Kasen were cast in 14 A.D., and were circulated for twelve years until the Shin dynasty became extinct. It is considered that the coins were brought to Japan around the first or second century. It is said that the characters of 貨泉 were the oldest remaining product of the characters found through excavations in Japan.

Kanno Wano Nano Kokuo In (the seal of the King of Japan, Chinese Colony)
In 1784 in the latter half of the Edo period, a golden seal was found on Shikanoshima island, the Chikuzen province (present Fukuoka Prefecture).
On the seal, the characters of "漢委奴国王" were engraved, and Nanmei KAMEI, a Confucian scholar at the Fukuoka domain said that this seal met descriptions in "Gokanjo" (historical records of the Later Han Dynasty)
According to the description, this Kanno Wano Nano Kokuo In was presented to an emissary of Nakoku by Kobu-tei (Emperor Guangwu) of the Later Han dynasty in 57, being the oldest next to 貨泉.

Introduction of Buddhism to Japan

In 552, the era of Emperor Kinmei, Buddhism (Mahayana Buddhism) was brought to Japan via the Korean peninsula as Chinese characters were, and Buddhist scriptures came to be copied.

Calligraphic samples during this period

The Asuka period

Buddhism became prosperous: For example, Prince Shotoku respected and believed Buddhism, and built Horyu-ji Temple. Then Buddhist scriptures were copied widely, and additionally because Damjing, a priest in Goryeo, brought to Japan the methods of manufacturing paper and ink sticks, calligraphy developed rapidly. Calligraphy in Japan started with six-dynasty calligraphy brought from Baekje. However, Chinese culture was brought to Japan without going through the Korean peninsula, for example, by means of sending an envoy to the Sui Dynasty China by Prince Shotoku, and calligraphy in Japan was affected by Sui and Tang. Such a change in style is typically found in the following example: The four volumes of "Hokke Gisho," said to have been written by Prince Shotoku himself, were written in the six dynasty style, but "kongojodarani-kyo" (the Buddhist scripture of Dhāraṇī of the Adamantine Place) was written in Tang style.

Persons during this period whose calligraphy was identified

Calligraphic samples in this period
Hokke Gisho
Said written by Prince Shotoku at the age of 41 or 42, these are the oldest calligraphic samples except for kinseki-bun (words written on metal or stones)
Handed down in Horyu-ji Temple, it has now become an Imperial property. The contents of each volume are written on Yellow kozo paper, with a little amount of white paper included as well. In the main texts, deleted characters, pasted sheets of paper and added sheets of paper are included, suggesting that the manuscripts were checked well. On a sheet of paper, twenty-nine lines of characters are written, with twenty-three or twenty-four characters on each line. The calligraphic style is like that of sutras copied in the six-dynasty style, and the character style is flat, with a beautiful sweeping stroke to the right, and is light, easy, but powerful.

This sutra was copied in 686 during the era of Emperor Tenmu, being the oldest copied sutra in Japan. This sutra was copied by Buddhists in Shiki, Kawachi Province who were enlightened by Priest Horin, and the calligraphic style resembles that of "the Monument of Daoyin Priest, Ouyang Tong" written by Ouyang Tong, a son of Ouyang Xun, one of the three greatest calligraphers in the early Tang period.
Soshi (paper with no additional processing), 27 cm longitudinally and 670 cm horizontally

The Nara period

This period began when Empress Genmei started the Heijo-kyo capital, and corresponded with the Tan dynasty era in China. The amount of traffic between Japan and Tang, including Japanese envoys to Tang Dynasty China, increased, and a great amount of Chinese culture was brought to Japan. In particular, in the Tenpyo era of Emperor Shomu, the Nara culture became most prosperous and calligraphy developed considerably. In this period, in addition to the six-dynasty style, the calligraphic style of the Jin and Tang dynasties was used, with the calligraphic style of Xizhi WANG learnt by many. Empress Komyo's imitating copy of "Wang Xizhi Text in the Square Style" by Wang Xizhi is famous and exists in Shoso-in Treasure Repository. By the way, in "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), 羲之 and 大王 are read as teshi, indicating that 王羲之 (Xizhi WANG) was used for indicating teshi (literally, hand teacher) or a calligraphic expert.

Sutras came to be copied widely. Respecting and believing Buddhism, Emperor Shomu built Todai-ji in Nara and other temples, trying to promote Buddhism as a national project. Then sutras came to be copied widely. Therefore, sutra-copying places were built to bring up sutra-copying disciples, leading to the generation of the sutra-copying calligraphic style. Many sutras copied during this period remain, including "Shinkan-kengu-kyo"which came down to Kaidan-in of Todai-ji temple (kengu-kyo said copied by Emperor Shomu himself).

Calligraphic education
An official position called shohakase (the professor of calligraphy) was introduced in the daigaku-ryo (Bureau of Education under the ritsuryo system), an educational institution under the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code), and the department called "calligraphy" was established later, but declined during it's early stage

Persons from this period whose calligraphy was identified

Calligraphic samples in this period

In the early Heian period

In 794, the capital was moved to Heian-kyo, becoming the political and cultural center of the nation. As Emperor Shomu was the central person of the Tenpyo culture, the Konin culture in this period developed greatly centered on Emperor Saga. In the peaceful political situation, many calligraphic experts, including Kukai and TACHIBANA no Hayanari, appeared, and many excellent calligraphic products in this period still remain.

The calligraphic style of the Jin and Tang dynasties became popular, and three great calligraphic experts appeared. In 804, an envoy was dispatched to Tang Dynasty China, and Saicho, Kukai, TACHIBANA no Hayanari, and others entered Tang China. Around this time, the Tang culture started to decline. Therefore, they did not imitate the new style but learnt calligraphy in the Jin and early Tang eras independently, bringing back calligraphic samples of Wang Xizhi and Tojin. The calligraphic style of the Jin and Tang dynasties was admired by persons in the court society. In particular, Emperor Saga liked the Tang style and changed the Chinese characters on the name plate of the gate to Kyujo (the place where the emperor lived) to Tang style ones. Furthermore, the emperor himself wrote characters on the name plates of gates, and had Kukai and TACHIBANA no Hayanari, being famous calligraphers at that time, write characters on the name plates of gates as well. These three persons (Emperor Saga, Kukai, and TACHIBANA no Hayanari) were called san-pitsu, the three great calligraphers, during the early Heian period. In particular, Kukai was an excellent calligrapher unparalleled in Japanese history, being called Wang Xizhi in Japan, and his stately and decorative calligraphic style was called the Daishi (meaning Kukai) style. In this era of san-pitsu, Saicho should be listed as an especially excellent calligrapher as well, and "shinkan-kokuchoshoninshi" (a poem of regretting the death of Saicho, written by the emperor himself) that Emperor Saga wrote regretting the death of Saicho in the sosho-tai (cursive style writing) style remains.

Persons from this period whose calligraphy was identified (during the early Heian period)

Calligraphic samples during this period (during the early Heian period)

The middle area of the Heian period

After Emperor Uda stopped sending envoys to Tang Dynasty China, increasingly more Japanese taste was introduced into calligraphy in Japan. In particular, attention was paid to the appearance of kana characters. Consequently, how to harmonize kana characters and Chinese characters in writing became a big problem in the calligraphy in Japan, and Japanese style calligraphy was completed to solve the problem. The person who completed the style was ONO no Tofu. Following him, FUJIWARA no Sukemasa and FUJIWARA no Yukinari appeared one after another, and these three persons were called, san-seki, the three great calligraphers. In this way, the middle era is characterized as having been the golden age of calligraphy.

Establishing kana characters

With Chinese characters having been brought to Japan, efforts to record Japanese language with Chinese characters started, and the orthography changed with the times. In the inscription of "Yama no Ue no Hi" (the monument on the mountain top) (built in 681), the Chinese characters on the monument were arranged in the order of the Japanese sentence, with the kana portions, such as okurigana (kanas added to a Chinese character to show its pronunciation) and postpositional particles, removed. In the "Kojiki" (completed in 711), to record the pronunciation of Japanese language using Chinese characters, Chinese characters were read in the original Chinese pronunciations (On) or in the pronunciations of the corresponding Japanese words (Kun).

Magana (Manyo-gana - a form of syllabary used in the Manyo-shu or Collection of Myriad Leaves)

During the Nara period, in senmyo, documents that recorded orders from an emperor, small-sized Chinese characters with pronunciations corresponding to okurigana and postpositional particles, such as te, ni, wo, and ha, were used for recording these sounds,
"乃" for "no", "波" for "ha,"and "乎" for "wo" were used consistently. The kaisho-tai (square or block style of writing) style or simple gyosho-tai (semi-cursive style of writing) style Chinese characters used for recording kana portions of Japanese language were called magana. Because many examples using this orthography were found in the "Manyoshu" (Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves), these special Chinese characters were later called Manyo-gana (during the Edo period and later). Then "Shosonin-Manyo-gana-monjo" (texts written in Manyo-gana in Shoso-in) were written towards the end of the Nara period, and still remain.


"Shosonin-Manyo-gana-monjo" indicates two documents each written using a Chinese character recording each Japanese sound and was shihai monjo (a document which was written on the other side of a piece of used paper). On the formerly used side of one of the two documents (starting with 和可夜之奈比乃 - wagayashinahino), "zo-Ishiyamadera-shokumotsucho" (a book for food at the office for constructing Ishiyam-dera Temple), which is considered having been written in January of 762, is recorded. Therefore, it is known that this kana document was written in 762 or earlier. On the formerly used side of the other of the two documents (which starts with 布多止己呂乃(hutatokorono)--), a document of "zo-Ishiyamdera-kumonan" (a copy of the official document of constructing Ishiyama-sera Temple), dated on March 3 and March 4, 762, is recorded. Therefore, it is known that this kana document was also written in the same era as the other one, although the authors were different. The gyosho-tai writing style and the sosho-tai writing style are used mixed in the two documents. A Chinese character is used consistently for each sound, with characters needing many brushstrokes not being used. To write and read senmyo documents, knowledge about Chinese language is needed. However, in these documents, each Chinese character is not recognized as a word with a meaning, and the way of using these characters is closer to that of using kana today. The author was not good at writing, and the way of writing was that of an ordinary person.

The number of kana characters decreased.

Because kana was used in the way specific to ancient times during the Nara period, the number of sounds in pronunciation was 87 (88 max).
However, since several to ten plus Chinese characters were used for indicating each sound, close to 1,000 Manyo-gana characters existed
After that, Chinese characters that required a small number of strokes, allowing easier writing, remained and, mixed use of ko-class characters and otsu-class characters reduced the number of such characters to around 300 (with around 100 to 200 such characters used by each person) in the late Heian period.

So-gana (cursive style writing of Manyo-gana) (or so-no-te) characters, and katakana characters

As the number of such characters used decreased, their styles became increasingly more simplified, and during the early Heian period, so-gana characters, Manyo-gana characters written beautifully in the sosho-tai style, were used. Furthermore, katakana characters were generated by using part of each Manyo-gana character. Calligraphic samples using so-gana characters include "ONO no Tofu akihagijo" and "ayajiutagire." So-gana characters were also called so-no-te ("te" means characters).

Onna-de (hira-gana) characters

Entering the middle era of the Heian period, simpler hira-gana characters, simplified and symbolic versions of so-gana characters, were generated. In this era, females were strongly differentiated from males, and it was prohibited for females to learn Chinese language. Therefore, Manyo-gana characters and hira-gana characters were called onoko-de (characters for males) and onna-de (characters for females), respectively. In this era, a male and a female in the noble class interacted with each other mostly through letters, and males used onna-de characters as well to write letters to females. A person's worth was evaluated based on how beautifully onna-de characters were written, and waka poems were made widely, leading to the heyday of kana character calligraphy.

Persons in this period whose calligraphy was identified (during the middle era of the Heian period)

Calligraphic samples during this period (during the middle era of the Heian period)

The latter half of the Heian period

Towards the end of the Heian period, Insei (rule by the retired Emperor) started and samurai started to gain power, causing disorder in aristocratic society and making it decline as well. Reflecting this situation, individualistic and decisive, rather than graceful things came to be favored, and gorgeous and decorative copies were made widely. Such typical calligraphic works included "Nishi-Honganji-bon Sanju-rokunin-kashu" (the Nishi-Honganji collection of thirty-six persons' anthologies). This calligraphic work includes waka poems by thirty-six master poets that were copied by twenty calligraphic experts, but only three names; FUJIWARA no Michiko, FUJIWARA no Sadazane, and FUJIWARA no Sadanobu are known. Centered on these three persons, calligraphic experts in the Imperial court produced many calligraphic works. By the way, the "Nishi-Honganji-bon Sanju-rokunin-kashu" was found by Shugyo OGUCHI in 1896 in the library of Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple.

The Sesonji family
The Sesonji family, founded by FUJIWARA no Yukinari, produced many calligraphic experts over generations, for example, FUJIWARA no Yukitsune (the second head of the family) and FUJIWARA no Korefusa (the third) in the middle era of the Heian period, and Sadazane (the fourth), Sadanobu (the fifth) and FUJIWARA no Koreyuki (the sixth) in the latter half of the Heian period. Therefore, the calligraphic style of the Sesonji family was called the Sesonji style in later ages. Yukiyoshi SESONJI, the eighth head of the family changed the family name to Sesonji, and the family line became extinct after Yukisue SESONJI, the seventeenth head of the family, died. Koreyuki, the sixth head of the family wrote "Yakakuteikin-sho, calligraphic styles in Japan," a book on the theory of calligraphy, which still remains.

Many sosyoku-kyo (copying of a sutra in a decorative style) sutras were generated. Many sutra copies were made, with almost all of them of the Hokke-kyo sutra, and were finished in the beautiful soshoku-kyo sutra style. "Kunoji-kyo" (sutras at Kunon-ji Temple) and "Heike-nokyo" (sutras dedicated by the Taira family) are such typical copies, and part of the Hiyuhon Daisan (the third chapter of the Lotus Sutra) of "Kunoji-kyo" was written by FUJIWARA no Sadanobu. FUJIWARA no Sadanobu copied 5048 volumes of Daizo-kyo sutras, Buddhist scriptures, for the twenty-three years from when he was forty-two to sixty-four in age.

Persons from this period whose calligraphy was identified (during the latter half of the Heian period)

Calligraphic samples during this period (during the latter half of the Heian period)

The Kamakura period

This period started when MINAMOTO no Yoritomo established his bakufu in Kamakura, and corresponded to the eras of Sung (Dynasty) and Yuan (Dynasty) in China. Governmental power was moved from the kuge (court nobles) to the samurai, and Buddhist sects, such as the Jodo (pure land) sect, Jodo Shinshu (the true pure land sect of Buddhism) sect and the Nichiren sect, that were newly established. In this way, samurai and priests exhibited their power during this period. As Zen priests came to Japan, Japanese Zen priests and Chinese Zen priests made the Zen calligraphic styles used widely in calligraphy. The calligraphic style was simple, elegant, and powerful, bringing a breath of fresh air to the calligraphic world using the Japanese style. Both the Japanese and the Zen styles were used during this period. In addition, more importance was placed on practicability rather than calligraphic beauty of characters, leading to the mixed use of Chinese characters and kana characters that became ordinary.

Zen style calligraphy (bokuseki)
Zen style calligraphy, the calligraphic style in Song, indicates the calligraphic works of Su Shi, Huang Tingjian, Mi Fu, and Sokushi CHO that became popular among Zen priests in China, and with free and strong natures freed from codes and traditions in the Jin and Tang eras, the style was totally different from that of Wang Xizhi, employed during the Nara period and later, which used soft lines. Although Song was replaced by Yuan, increasingly more Zen priests in both nations traveled between Japan and China. The calligraphic works based on the Chinese calligraphic style brought by these Zen priests are called bokuseki. Recently, in addition to the calligraphic works in the Song and Yuan era, those by Zen priests of the Obaku school in the Edo period have also generally come to be called bokuseki.

Japanese styles and the shinkan (imperial family) styles
Various Japanese styles, such as the sesonji style, the Hosshoji style that was branched off by FUJIWARA no Tadamichi from the sesonji style towards the end of the Heian period, the Toshinari style by FUJIWARA no Toshinari, and the Teika style by FUJIWARA no Teika, were established, and in particular, the Hosshoji style became quite popular entering this period. The calligraphic styles used by the imperial family during the Kamakura and later were called the shinkan styles. The shinkan styles include the Fushimi-in style by Emperor Fushimi, the Chokuhitsu style by Emperor Goenyu, and the Gokashiwabara style by Emperor Gokashiwabara.

Persons from this period whose calligraphy was identified

Calligraphic samples from this period

The Muromachi and Azuchi-momoyama period

In the turbulent Muromachi period, calligraphy in both the Japanese style and the Chinese style declined. Entering the Azuchi-Momoyama period, the mood of admiring and viewing kohitsu (old calligraphic works) appeared, slightly animating the calligraphic world. This period corresponds to the period from Yuan (the Yuan dynasty) and Ming in China.

Japanese styles
In the era from the Kamakura to this period, Japanese styles founded by the san-pitsu calligraphers and the san-seki calligraphers appeared. However, of these, the most influential ones were the four styles of the sesonji style, the Hoshoji style, the Sonen style founded by Cloistered Imperial Prince Sonen, and the Jimyoin style by Motoharu JIMYOIN, each of which was a branch from the style by Yukinari. Following the shinkan style by Emperor Fushimi and the succeeding emperors, emperors during this period produced splendid calligraphic works as well. The Shoren-in style by Cloistered Imperial Prince Sonen, the sixth prince of Emperor Fushimi, was called the Oie style later, and became the central calligraphic style in the calligraphy in Japan until the Edo period.

Calligraphic works by Zen priests (bokuseki)

During this period as well, Zen, believed by kuge and samurai, became increasingly more prosperous. Calligraphic works by Zen priests during the Kamakura period were written in Sung style, but were affected by Mofu CHO in Yuan during this period. Yubai SESSON and Genko JYAKUSHITSU were typical persons affected by him. As Gozan Bungaku (literally, five mountain literature) became prosperous, the Gozan style, in which Japanese tastes were added to the calligraphic style by Zen priests, became popular.

Kohitsu and the jodai style
Excellent calligraphic works written from the Heian to the Kamakura period are particularly called kohitsu. Entering the Azuchi-Momoyama period, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and others decorated their tea rooms with kohitsu or bokuseki, and enjoyed viewing them together with men of literature and other guests they invited. This mood spread to the general public, and kohitsu came to be evaluated more and more highly. Each piece of kohitsu constituted a scroll or a book, but became to be divided into parts, with each part owned by someone, and each of these parts became to be called kohitsu-gire ("gire" meaning "being cut"). The person who checked whether these pieces of kohitsu were genuine or not was called a kohitsu-kanteika (a connoisseur of kohitsu), and Ryosa KOHITSU was famous as such a connoisseur at that time. The Japanese style calligraphic works in the time when the style was completed, including the calligraphic works of the sanseki calligraphers in the middle era of the Heian period and kohitsu, are particularly called jodai (ancient) style (calligraphic works), for differentiating these from calligraphic works in Japanese styles during the Kamakura period or later.

Persons from this period whose calligraphy was identified

Calligraphic samples from this period

The Edo period

This is the period when Ieyasu TOKUGAWA became Seitaishogun (commander-in-chief of the expeditionary force against the barbarians, great, unifying leader), and corresponded to the era of Qing in China. In this period, an innovative air was brought to the calligraphic world as well due to the educational policy of the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun), drastically changing Chinese and Japanese calligraphic styles.

Chinese calligraphic styles

The bokuseki in this period indicate the calligraphic works by Zen priest in Daitoku-ji Temple and in Myoshin-ji Temple and those by Zen priest in the Obaku school, written using the styles that were employed by Mi Fu in Sung (Dynasty), Wen Zhengming in Yuan (Dynasty), Chomei BUN, Zhu Yunming, and Dong Qichang in Ming. As the import of Chinese books and Chinese copybooks printed from the works of old masters of calligraphy was extremely restricted because of national isolation policy from 1633, calligraphic works by these priests in the Obaku school were accepted mostly by Confucian scholars, men of literature, and priests. Of the priests in the Obaku school, the three of Ingen Ryuki (Yinyuan Longqi), Muan Xingtao, and Jifei Ruyi were especially good at calligraphy and were called san-pitsu (three great calligraphers) of the Obaku school.

Chinese calligraphic styles
The Chinese calligraphic style for bokuseki was initiated into Setsuzan KITAJIMA, and Setsuzan acted actively as the founder of the Chinese calligraphic style. This calligraphic style was transferred to Kotaku HOSOI, his follower in Edo, establishing the popularity of the Chinese calligraphic style. Kotaku wrote many books, including "Kanga Hyakutan," becoming the motive force promoting the Chinese calligraphic style. After that, Jakugon and IKE no Taiga succeeded the style, and towards the end of the Edo period, it was handed down to Beian ICHIKAWA, Ryoko MAKI, and Suo NUKINA who were called the san-pitsu of bakumatsu (the three great calligraphers towards the end of the Edo period). These three had many followers among samurai and Confucians, and in particular, it is said that Beian ICHIKAWA had 5,000 followers including feudal lords. As calligraphic methods were explored more deeply around in the middle era of the Edo period, use of the Jin-Tang style instead of the Yuan-Ming style was advocated. Ryoko MAKI and Suo NUKINA supported the Jin-Tang style, while Beian ICHIKAWA the Ming-Qing style. The lines of these two styles remained even during the Meiji period, affecting many calligraphers during the period.

Persons from this period whose calligraphy was identified (in the Chinese styles)

Calligraphic samples during this period (in the Chinese styles)

Japanese styles

The calligraphic works by san-pitsu in the Kanei era (1624 - 1644) (Nobutada KONOE, Koetsu HONAMI, and Shojo SHOKADO) during the early Edo period were based on the sonen style handed down from the previous period. Their works were magnificently written, and the style was learnt by many people.

From the aristocratic culture to common people-based culture
During the Heian period and later, calligraphy was a practice of people only in the upper society, but during this period, calligraphy became popular among common people as well. This is because educational institutions for common people called terakoya (temple schools) became established throughout the nation and writing characters was a central course of education there. In terakoya, the Oie style writing method was learnt mostly. Chinese calligraphic styles were popular among specific spheres, such as Confucians and scholars liking the tastes of men of literature, while Japanese calligraphic styles became popular in wider spheres, including kuge, samurai, and common people. Among the number of followers, the Japanese styles were dominant.

Typical Japanese style calligraphers
Typical Japanese style calligraphers in the middle era of the Edo period included Masayoshi MORI, Yuhitsu (amanuensis) of the bakufu, Iehiro KONOE who endeavored to restore the jodai style, Chikage KATO who founded the Chikage style, and IKE no Taiga. Being affected by the calligraphy in China, IKE no Taiga established his own calligraphic style.

Persons from this period whose calligraphy was identified (in the Japanese styles)

Calligraphic samples from this period (in the Japanese styles)

Summary in the Meiji period

From Japanese styles to Chinese styles
Towards the end of the Edo period, there was the prejudice of "The calligraphic works not written in the sonen style could not be called calligraphic works actually." However, even when the Oie style was dominant, there were persons who wrote in Chinese styles, with most of them being writers, artists, Confucians and doctors. In the government during the Meiji period after the bakufu was destroyed and became extinct, many persons who wrote in Chinese styles in the bakufu period became officers at the document section of Daijokan (Grand Council of State), the center of politics. They included Ichiroku IWAYA, Meikaku KUSAKABE, Shukin NAGAMATSU, Kaio HISHIDA, and Taimei KITAGAWA. Then documents in the Imperial court and government offices were written in Chinese styles, leading to a big change in calligraphy in Japan. At that time, Chinese styles were led by the new style of the Kaiya style in western Japan, and by those of the Ryoko style and the Beian style in eastern Japan. During around ten years after that, no new movement appeared, and the Chinese styles developed for a while.

Calligraphy in the six dynasties started and became popular. Yang Shoujing who came to Japan in 1880 started calligraphy in the six dynasties, in Japan. After that, Gochiku NAKABAYASHI went to Qing and studied calligraphy there. Gochiku, who studied abroad, and Yang Shoujing, who visited Japan, made calligraphy in the six dynasties popular, replacing the new Chinese styles that ruined the Oie style during the first year after the Meiji Restoration. During the period from that time to the end of the Meiji period, roughly no changes were made in calligraphy of Japan.

The Ryoko style

Of the New Chinese styles, the Ryoko style (the calligraphic style by Ryoko MAKI) became dominant, and Chikage KATO's style was used for writing kana characters, because KATO's style was harmonious with character styles of Ryoko. The Ryoko's fresh and bright calligraphic style based on Ouyang Xun's writing style was accepted as being suited for the new building sense of the Meiji Restoration, and the official character style used in the Meiji government changed to the Ryoko style from the Oie style. Then Ryoko's Chinese characters in the standard style became increasingly more popular and completely dominant. Setsujo NAKAZAWA, a follower of Ryoko, inherited his mentor's style well, and many excellent calligraphers, including Ichiroku IWAYA and Shundo NISHIKAWA, appeared from his followers. In addition, the Ryoko style was utilized usefully later as well mostly in the practical field as well as the educational field: For example, Ryotan MAKI, a follower of Ryoko, became an author of textbooks for calligraphy.

The six-dynasty calligraphy

Effects of Yang Shoujing who came to Japan
Invited by He Ruzhang, Qing's Minister in Japan, Yang Shoujing came to Japan in April of 1880 with 13,000 inscriptions and copybooks from the six dynasties of the Han and Wei (three dynasties) period, and stayed in Japan for four years. This event greatly affected the Japanese calligraphic world that had been forced to study based only on poorly printed books, and in particular, attention was focused on inscriptions on monuments during the Han period and those from the Northern Wei period. Starting in the Nara period, calligraphy in Japan was based on calligraphic works in Jin-Tang, Yuan, or Ming-Qing. Therefore, those inscriptions in Han and Northern Wei were novel to Meikaku KUSAKABE and others.
Then the three of Ichiroku IWAYA, Sekka MATSUDA, and Meikaku KUSAKABE visited Yang Shoujing almost like one of their daily jobs to ask for the calligraphic methods, providing the opportunity to make the six dynasty style become popular
After this, many Japanese went to Qing one after another. In 1882, Gochiku NAKABAYASHI visited Qing together with YO Genbi (an officer at Qing's Office of Director in Nagasaki), and, visiting Hanson, the mentor of YO Genbi (the mentor of Yang Shoujing as well), was engaged in study of calligraphy there. After returning to Japan, he advocated the six-dynasty calligraphic style in the Nagasaki area.
Then he came to Tokyo, and interacted with Meikaku KUSAKABE and others
However, his opinions were not always the same as those of Yang Shoujing. However, Gochiku's learning abroad, together with Yang Shoujing's visit to Japan, was the largest causes to make the six dynasty style popular. Following him, Meikaku went to Qing in 1891, visiting such great calligraphers as Yu Yue, Yang Xian, and Wu Dacheng.

Xu Sangeng's effects
In July of 1877, Shinsen KITAGATA went to Qing to propagate his religious sect by direction of Hifashi-Hongan-ji Temple. After that, he also visited Qing several times and interacted with Yu Yue. However, it is said that he learnt mostly from Xu Sangeng, a calligraphic expert. Ginko KISHIDA (a business man) and Taiu MARUYAMA (tenkokuka - a seal engraving artist) learnt from Xu Sangeng, taking the opportunity to start commercial relationships in Shanghai. Hekijo AKIYAMA (also called Tanen or Hakugan) visited Qing in 1886, and learnt under Xu Sangeng for many years, handing down his mentor's calligraphic style. Shundo NISHIKAWA studied the Xu Sangeng" calligrapy that Hekijo AKIYAMA brought back to Japan from Qing, and was devoted to Xu Sangeng. At that time, kaisho (Chinese characters in standard style), gyosho (cursive style of writing Chinese characters) and sosho (very cursive style of writing Chinese characters, more abbreviated and flowing than gyosho) were ordinarily learnt, but Shundo also learnt keisho (clerical scripts) and tensho (seal scripts) as well.

The manuscript school and the monument school
In this way, through interaction with persons in the monument school in Qing, a new trend of advocating the monument school, centered on calligraphy on inscriptions on monuments in the Northern Wei period, was generated. However, there also existed a movement not supporting such a trend. Daiiki NARUSE, Sanshu CHO, Baikei HIDAKA, Banka YOSHIDA, and Kindo KANAI advocated the calligraphic style of Yan Zhenqing (the Yan style) in Tang, to keep traditional calligraphic styles. Because Baikei HIDAKA, a follower of Sanshu CHO, became an author of calligraphic school textbooks compiled by the state, the Yan style was used for textbooks in this period. Such confrontation between the conservatives and the reformists were quite similar to the one between the manuscript school and the monument school in Qing.

Kana characters

Among common people, the Oie style was still firmly favored. However, "Naniwazu-kai" (an association) was established to promote the diffusion of knowledge about Jodai-style in 1890 by Sanetomi SANJO, Chikutei HIGASHIKUZE, Sugimura KOSUGI, Masakaze TAKASAKI, Shugyo OGUCHI, Masaomi BAN, and Mitsuaki TANAKA. "Naniwazu-kai" started a movement for making efforts to add corrections to the Oie style, largely contributing to forming a bases of today's kana calligraphy. Almost all important persons in the kana calligraphy world belonged to the "Naniwazu-kai." In 1896, Shugyo OGUCHI found "Nishi-Honganji-bon Sanju-rokunin-kashu" (the Nishi-Honganji collection of thirty-six anthologies) in Nishi-Hongan-ji Temple, introducing the extreme beauty of kana calligraphy during the Heian period.

Genkun (the statesmen who rendered a great service to the nation)

During the Meiji period, there were many genkun who were good at calligraphy, including Hirobumi ITO (Hirobumi), Taneomi SOEJIMA (Taneomi), Takayoshi KIDO (Takayoshi), Toshimichi OKUBO (Toshimichi), Sanetomi SANJO (Sanetomi), and Takamori SAIGO (Takamori).

Building monuments became popular

During the era from the latter half of the Edo period to the Taisho period, building monuments was popular, and many monuments for men of literature in Edo remain in the Shitamachi area of Tokyo. In particular, the monument-building boom started in around 1890. Meikaku KUSAKABE visited many places throughout Japan, writing inscriptions, the number of which is said having reached a thousand and several hundreds. Ichiroku IWAYA wrote many inscriptions next to Meikaku. In addition, many other calligraphers, including Shundo NISHIKAWA, Shosai YANAGIDA, Sanshu CHO, Soken NOMURA, Kindo KANAI, and Eishi MIYAJIMA, were engaged in writing inscriptions. From Meiji to the Taisho period, eight shindo-hi monuments (see below) were built as directed by Emperor Meiji.

Shindo-hi monuments
A shindo-hi monument is a monument which is built on the path to a person's grave praising his or her high virtue, for example, "The shindo-hi monument for Toshimichi OKUBO."

The shindo-hi monument for Toshimichi OKUBO
At the age of seventy-three, Meikaku KUSAKABE wrote the inscription at Yamanaka hot springs in Kaga, consuming a period of 150 days. With five centimeter square characters, the inscription consists of 2919 characters, the largest number of those of the inscriptions in Japan, and is said Meikaku's greatest masterpiece. This monument is located in the Aoyama cemetery, where 15,000 tombstones were built, including precious ones from the viewpoint of calligraphy.

Inauguration of shodo-kai (an association for calligraphy)

From around the middle era of the Meiji period, an association for calligraphy was established and a bulletin was published. In 1902, Rikusho Kyokai (Rikusyo Association) held an exhibition, resembling the forms of present organizations for calligraphy.

The Taisho period

Leaving desk study, the calligraphic world in this period formed a kind of journalistic world as well, though quite small. Lots of matters were disputed there, and calligraphic exhibitions were held publicly, offering topics of conversation for common people. In this way, the world was gradually being modernized.

Publications on calligraphy became available.
From the end of the Meiji period to the Taisho period, publications on calligraphy were available as a new promotion tool to make calligraphic philosophy more popular, constituting an early form of the PR movement in the today's calligraphic world
"Danshokai Shucho," "Shoen," " Calligraphy and painting," "Fude no Tomo" (Friends of brushes), "Shodo Kenkyu" (Calligraphic study), "Shosei," and "Rikucho shodo ron" (Discussions on the six dynasty style calligraphy) were published. Starting with shabby publications of hojo (copybooks printed from the works of old masters of calligraphy) in an inconvenient publishing situation, Mokuho MAEDA used the latter half of his life to make classic calligraphic materials more easily available.

Rikucho shodo ron
This book, a translation by Reizan IDO and Fusetsu NAKAMURA of "Guang yi zhou shuang ji zhu" by Ko Yui (Kang Youwei), was published in February of 1914, and attracted attention because the book was considered providing a base of the six dynasty style calligraphy.

The preface (by Fusetsu NAKAMURA)
The calligraphy of Kukai and that of ONO no Tofu are exquisite, if asked whether they are exquisite or not, and are like being written by god, if asked whether they are like being written by god or not, but when viewing their works minutely, it is found that they were only imitators of calligraphy in Tang and did not worship what they understood as the origin of calligraphy in the Tang period. During the period when Kukai and Tofu worshipped calligraphy in China, they could view almost nothing other than inscriptions on monuments in Tang, and concerning six-dynasty style calligraphy, they could view only Huang Ting Jing by Wang Xizhi and Gakki ron also by Wang Xizhi, which included many reprints of such calligraphy. Now, the situation has become quite different; Four hundred inscriptions on monuments in the six Han-Wei dynasties can now be viewed, and in addition, many calligraphic treasures excavated recently in Dunhuang City are definitely genuine calligraphic works in the six Han-Wei dynasties themselves; When compared them with those inscriptions of monuments in Tang that were reprinted and copied many times, the difference is definitely between heaven and earth. Artists' last claim is "Return to nature," and I think that, in calligraphy, there are so-called "many natural things to be found " in inscriptions on monuments in the six Han-Wei dynasties.
(All above are an excerpts from the preface.)
The appendix: "Talks about calligraphy by six great calligraphers"
The secrets of calligraphy (by Gochiku NAKABAYASHI)
Calligraphic styles before the Meiji period (by Hanrei NAKANE)
Calligraphic styles in the Meiji period (by Meikaku KUSAKABE)
Side views of calligraphic styles (by Mokuho MAEDA)
Transitions of Chinese calligraphic styles (by Konan NAITO)
Views from external worlds (by Tsuyoshi INUKAI)

Chinese characters

From the end of Meiji to the Taisho period, Meikaku KUSAKABE and Ichiroku IWAYA, both enlightened by Yang Shoujing, actively supported calligraphy of the six dynasties, and Gochiku NAKABAYASHI in addition to Shundo NISHIKAWA, who was affected by Xu Sangeng, was also active, making movements in the Chinese calligraphic world in this flamboyant era.

Kana characters

Enlightening activities by "Naniwazu-kai" brought fresh air to the kana calligraphic world. However, the largest event was the activity sponsored by the Konohana-kai association headed by Gado ONO. Shinai TADA, Shugyo OGUCHI and others made an effort to improve their calligraphic skill in the sphere of kohitsu. However, although participating in these activities as well, Gado devised his own flowing writing style based on the so-gana characters of the Heian period, and this style became so popular that almost all of kana calligraphy-learning women participated in his association.

Showa period

Starting with that, Shunkai BUNDO, a follower of Shundo NISHIKAWA, established "Nihon Shodo Sakushin-Kai" (an association for promoting calligraphy in Japan) newly towards the end of Taisho period, many calligraphic bodies were established one after another, holding calligraphic exhibitions. The modern history of the calligraphic society started during this era. The Appearance of Modern Calligraphy by Tenrai HIDAI, a follower of Meikaku KUSAKABE, was featured in this period. As a variety of publications about calligraphy were made available in large quantities, calligraphy became increasingly more popular and developed considerably as well during this period.

Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies (before the war)

The Nihon Shodo Sakushin-kai association
In January of 1922, Meikaku KUSAKABE died, and Gado ONO died in December of the same year. In August of 1924, in two years after it, Shunkai BUNDO, who was a high-caliber disciple of Shundo NISHIKAWA (who died in 1915), achieved an accomplishment of establishing "the Nihon Shodo Sakushin-kai association," organizing almost all of the calligraphers at that time. Its first exhibition was held in November of 1925 at the Reppinkan hall of the Ryuchi kai. In 1926, the second exhibition was held at the Tokyo Prefectural Museum (present Tokyo Metropolitan Museum). However, Tenrai HIDAI and Kaikaku NIWA already declared that they had left the body. Then in the year following the year when the third exhibition was held, a declaration establishing a new calligraphic association was issued by eight calligraphers.

The Boshin (戊辰) Shodo-Kai association
The declaration of newly establishing a calligraphic association by the eight persons of Ryuseki HASEGAWA, Shotei KAWATANI, Hochiku YOSHIDA, Chikudo TAKATSUKA, Shukaku TASHIRO, Hosui MATSUMOTO, Izan SABURI, and Suiken SUZUKI in January of 1928 included the following description:

For some time, we have considered how to make the calligraphic world prosper, and now a suitable opportunity has arrived. Therefore, we will establish a new calligraphic association to make calligraphy develop soundly, to make new calligraphers grow into experts based upon their own abilities and to help our followers.
(The rest is omitted.)
Centered on these eight persons, the Boshin Shodo-Kai association was established in July of 1928, separated from the Nihon Shodo Sakushin-Kai association, dividing the calligraphic world in two.

Taito Shodo-in
In May of 1930, only two years after the Boshin (戊辰) Shodo-Kai association was established, a new body of "Taito Shodo-in" was established by integrating the Nihon Shodo Sakushin-kai association and the Boshin (戊申) Shodo-Kai association. This integration was also achieved through efforts by Shunkai BUNDO. Its first exhibition was spectacularly held early in November of 1930 at the Tokyo Prefectural Museum.

The Toho Shodo-kai association
Seven persons; Hochiku YOSHIDA, Hosui MATSUMOTO, Chikudo TAKATSUKA, Izan SABURI, Ryuseki HASEGAWA, Shiyu TSUJIMOTO, and Haiseki KUROKI planned to establish a new calligraphic association by dividing the "Taito Shodo-in." Then later, Kizan KAWAMURA, Koseki HATTORI, Taiun YANAGIDA, and Tairei SHINOHARA participated in the movement, establishing the Toho Shodo-kai association in April of 1932.

The Sanraku Shodo-kai association
Advocated by Hoshu WAKAUMI, this association was established in May of 1934, and its first exhibition was held in the same month.

Dainihon Shodo-in
"Dainihon Shodo-in" was established in April of 1937 by Tenrai HIDAI, together with some persons in the Meikaku school and immediate disciples of Tenrai. Its first exhibition was held for eight days from July 24, 1937 at the Tokyo Prefectural Museum, and aroused interest because Tenrai HIDAI personally screened each of 2950 calligraphic works presented for the exhibition. In addition, an exhibition to show seventy plus calligraphic works that Meikaku left was held as well in the same location. On January 4, 1939, in the year following when its second exhibition was held, Tenrai died suddenly, but the association remained, inheriting his great achievements. However, on December 29, 1941 the association was dissolved issuing an announcement, being absorbed into "Koa Shodo Renmei."

Koa Shodo Renmei
Katsu KAWASAKI (a politician) established Koa Shodo Renmei in April of 1939 for achieving rapprochement between Manchuria and the Republic of China. Its first exhibition was held publicly at the five sites of the Huairentang hall in the Zhong Nan Hai park of Beijing, Mitsukoshi in Dalian City, the Japanese school in the center of Shanghai, Chaotiangong in Nanjing, and Osaka Municipal Museum of Art.

Shodan Kakushin Kyogikai (literally, a council to innovate a calligraphic society in Japan)
In December of 1940, Toa Shodo Shinbunsha (a news paper company concerned with calligraphy) held a round-table discussion to gather many calligraphers and to exchange opinions about uniting persons in the calligraphic society for a common purpose, consequently leading to the establishment of the "Shodan Kakushin Kyogikai." However, because various difficult problems existed and initial purposes were achieved, the announcement about dissolving the body was issued.

The Daitoa Shodo-kai association (literally, a calligraphic association in Great East Asia)
Taisei-Yokusankai (a political body formed in the war-time situation) tried to form new bodies to meet national policies, and established "the Daitoa Shodo-kai association" in January of 1943. With the historical backdrop under which no opposition was allowed, the situation became strained. In such a situation, "the Toho Shodo-kai association" was dissolved, "Taito Shodo-in" and "the Sanraku Shodo-kai association" became totally inactive, and "Koa Shodo Renmei" issued an announcement about continuing activities, but could not act freely. "The Daitoa Shodo-kai association" was a special institution with the war as the background, not being a body for calligraphy.

Movements for modern calligraphy started.

Amongst the followers of Meikaku KUSAKABE, it was Tenrai HIDAI who acted in the grandest way. At the age of thirty, Tenrai passed the teacher qualification test at the Ministry of Education (the category of shuji (calligraphy), starting his activities as a calligrapher. Meikaku innovated the Chinese calligraphic styles based on the six-dynasty style, and in addition, tried to provide calligraphy with a basis suitable for the period through systematic studies of inscriptions and copybooks.
For this, in addition to systematizing inscriptions and copybooks at a higher level, Tenrai newly introduced and advanced inner senses of beauty, such as the aspects of individuality and artistry
This development from Meikaku to Tenrai was inherited by Tenrai's followers, appearing as "modern calligraphy" during this period.

Tenrai HIDAI
Sokyu UEDA: avant-garde calligraphy
Yukei TESHIMA: one character calligraphy
Otei KANEKO: calligraphy of modern poems
Suiho KUWAHARA: calligraphy of Chinese characters
Declaration of modern calligraphy
In 1933, "Shodo Geijutsu-sha" (an organization for calligraphic art) was established centered on Sokyu UEDA who learnt under Tenrai, and "Shodo Geijutsu (Shodo Zasshi) " (Calligraphic art (a journal of calligraphy), its bulletin, was published.
The following description was included in the statement for starting this journal:

"We who live today should have our own modern calligraphy." "In the two periods of Meiji and Taisho, our predecessors quite strongly advocated the restoration of old styles. However, the restoration of old styles itself is not the ultimate objective. It is meaningful to modernize the old styles based on their foundations, or to endeavor to generate new styles."
(An excerpt)
Furthermore, in the same inaugural issue, Kanzan SAMEJIMA wrote as follows in "Shosaku-riho oboegaki" (A note about natural ways of writing calligraphy":

"Calligraphy is a line-based art in which the author's subjectivity is expressed in the forms of characters." "If the social situation changes, if each author's sensitivity is different and if new writing tools are invented, it is natural that a new calligraphic style will be generated. Therefore, it is unnecessary to firmly stick to traditional ten-sho, rei-sho, kai-sho, gyo-sho or so-sho cerographic styles."
(An excerpt)
In this way, the inaugural issue of "Shodo Geijutsu" made clear that the direction of "modern calligraphy" was going to progress.

Concerning calligraphy of modern poems, Otei KANEKO (Otei) wrote in 1933 a "shin-chowa-tai" (new harmonious style) theory on "Sho no Kenkyu" (Study of calligraphy), and made public the calligraphy of "Akikaze-no-uta" (song of autumn wind) by Toson SHIMAZAKI, and "Keyaki" (zelkova trees) and "Kayani" by Hakushu KITAHARA. In November, 1937, an issue of "Shodo Geijutsu," studies of mixed writing of Chinese characters and kana characters was dealt with exclusively, where Yukei TESHIMA reported calligraphic styles of English in addition to mixed writing of Chinese characters and kana characters.

Calligraphic society after the war

Major events in the calligraphic world in Japan after the war were as follows:

In 1948, calligraphy participated in (the fifth department of) The Japan Fine Arts Exhibition. In April of 1951, brush-using calligraphy was restored as a formal learning item in the fourth and higher grades of elementary schools.
Appearance of avant-garde calligraphy
Avant-garde calligraphy was called "the new style" or "the new trend." However, in the Mainichi shodo-ten (a calligraphic exhibition named Mainichi (literally, everyday), the name of "bokusho-geijutsu" (literally, ink-based art) held in 1954 was given to such calligraphy, and in the art-reviewing society, it is also called "chusho-shodo" (abstract calligraphy). Sokyu UEDA and Gakyu OSAWA both of whom were concerned with movements for modern calligraphy in "Shodo Geijutsu-sha" established the "sho-no-bi" (calligraphic beauty) group and the "Heigen-sha" (literally, plain association) within Japan Calligraphy Art Academy, respectively, competing with each other. The bodies for avant-garde calligraphy in recent years include, in addition to Japan Calligraphy Art Academy, "Keiseikai," "Sojinsha," "Sorosha," and "Gendaisho-sakka-kyokai" (an association of writers of modern calligraphy), with Nankoku HIDAI and others who did not belong to any of these bodies existing as well.

Nihon Shodo Bijutsuin (Calligraphic art institute in Japan) was inaugurated. Nihon Shosakuin (Institute for writing calligraphy in Japan) was established.

Calligraphic education in schools

It can be said that the persons who contributed to the development of modern calligraphy in education were the authors of school textbooks of calligraphy. The calligraphic style started with that of Ryoko MAKI in early Meiji period, and was followed by the Yan style until the era from the latter half of the Meiji period to the early Showa period. However, starting around in this era, the calligraphers constituting the authors earnestly studied classic styles, and the effects began to gradually appear. In particular, Kaikaku NIWA who devoted himself to the calligraphic style of the Jin and Tang dynasties), riding himself of the six-dynasty style, became an examiner of teacher qualification tests at the Ministry of Education (for the category of calligraphy), and advocated placing the standards for calligraphic education on the styles of the three great calligraphers in the early Tang period. As a result, Suiken SUZUKI, a disciple of Kaikaku, became an author of national school textbooks for calligraphy, making the standards even more solid.

Teacher qualification tests at the Ministry of Education

Teacher qualification tests at the Ministry of Education (abbreviated as bunken) were qualification tests to give the teacher status for middle schools or schools for teacher training, and were conducted for sixty-three years between 1885 and 1948.

The background
Entering the Meiji period, the education system for elementary schools, middle schools, schools for teacher training, and universities was established. However, the number of qualified teaches for middle schools and that of those for schools for teacher training was insufficient. Therefore, to improve the situation, "regulations to qualify teachers for middle schools and those for schools for teacher training," was enforced in August 13, 1884. It was stipulated in Article three of the regulation that "Scholastic abilities must be checked with tests," and the first qualification test of scholastic abilities was conducted in March of 1885.

The category of learning writing with brushes, at bunken
To take a teaching position for the category of learning writing with brushes at a middle school or a school for teacher training, it was required to pass the test for the category of learning writing with brushes, at bunken. Candidates for the test were mostly teachers from elementary schools. However, only five percent of the candidates could pass the test, far too insufficient to fill the positions necessitated. Therefore, qualified teachers were unavailable at a significant number of schools, and the calligraphic skills of students was markedly dependent on the school. From around 1935, "the category of learning writing with brushes, at bunken" was changed to "the category of calligraphy, at bunken." Corresponding to public demands, this change of name was made by the Ministry of Education, to add to pragmatism the element of pursuing beauty as art and design. Therefore, candidates for the test had to make adequate preparations depending on demands in the era.

Chinese characters

A great man in the Chinese character calligraphic world was Meikaku KUSAKABE. Being a main advocate of six-dynasty calligraphy and provided with the largest number of followers, he was a person who enlightened the calligraphic world in Japan during the Meiji period. Shundo NISHIKAWA competed with him, and almost all basics of today's Chinese character calligraphy were created centered on these two persons. In addition, Tenrai HIDAI, a follower of Meikaku KUSAKABE, further progressed the study of classic calligraphy, and made an effort to modernize calligraphy and to make calligraphy independent of other art. Many progressive calligraphers appeared from his followers.

Kana characters

Gado ONO in the kana character calligraphic world also brought up many disciples. Saishu ONOE, who learnt under Shugyo OGUCHI, took the position of evaluating kohitsu most highly, affecting many of his followers significantly.

A chronological table of historical events in modern calligraphy

July: Shinsen KITAGATA went to Qing (refer to the item of effects by Xu Sangeng)

August: The first exposition was held.

"Ryuchi kai" (Ryuchi party) was established (by Bankei OTSUKI and others).

"Sekka MATSUDA Jutsuhippodo Seidankai" (Sekka MATSUDA's calligraphy study society) was established (by Sekka MATSUDA and others).

April: Yang Shoujing came to Japan (refer to the item of the six-dynasty calligraphy)

March: The second "domestic industrial exposition" was held.

September: Sekka MATSUDA died.

Gochiku NAKABAYASHI went to Qing (refer to the item of the six-dynasty calligraphy)

March: The first "teacher qualification test at the Ministry of Education" was conducted

Mokuho MAEDA went to Qing.

Hekijo AKIYAMA went to Qing (refer to the item of effects by Xu Sangeng)

January: The name of "Ryuchi kai" was changed to "Nihon Bijutsu Kyokai" (Japan Art Association).

May: The third "domestic industrial exposition" was held.

"The konohana-kai association" was established (by Gado ONO).

"The Naniwazu-kai association" was established (by Sanetomi SANJO, Chikutei HIGASHIKUZE, and others).

Meikaku KUSAKABE went to Qing (refer to the item of effects by Xu Sangeng)

Shunkai BUNDO started to learn under Shundo NISHIKAWA.

"The doko-kai association" was established (by Meikaku KUSAKABE).

March: Sanshu CHO died.

April: The fourth "domestic industrial exposition" was held.

August: Shugyo OGUCHI found "Nishi-Honganji-bon Sanju-rokunin-kashu" (The Nishi-Honganji collection of thirty-six anthologies)

"The sho-kosho-kai association" (an association for valuing old calligraphy) was established (among the followers of Shundo NISHIKAWA).

"The shodo shorei kyokai" (an association for promoting calligraphy)" was established (by Hoshu SAITO and others).

May: "Fudeno-tomo" (friends of calligraphic brushes) was published (by "the shodo shorei kyokai").

"Rikusho Exhibition" was held (by Sao WATANABE).

February: "Shokagami" was published by (Mokuho MAEDA).

"The rikusho-kyokai association" was established by (Shundo NISHIKAWA, Sao WATANABE, Kindo KANAI, and others).

January: "Kenshindo Dosokai" (Kenshindo Alumni) was established (by Shunkei MOROI, Shunkai BUNDO, and others).

"Konohana no tomo" (Konohana Friends) was published (by Gado ONO).

April: Shinai TADA died.

July: Ichiroku IWAYA died. Shinsen KITAGATA died.

June: "The Dansho-kai association" was established (by Sazanami IWAYA, Tsuyoshi INUKAI, Masaomi BAN, and others).

July: "Nihon Shodo-kai" (Japan Calligraphy Association) was established (by Soken NOMURA, Sao WATANABE, and others).

October: The first "Japan Fine Arts Exhibition" was held.

"Teibiinsha" (an association) was established (by Chinsho OKAMOTO, Zoroku HAMAMURA (the fifth), and others).

"The kenpitsu-kai association" was established (by Mokuho MAEDA, Shinzan HIJIKATA, Fusetsu NAKAMURA, Soken NOMURA, and others).

May: The first exhibition of "the Kenpitsu-kai association" was held (at Ueno/Nihon Bijutsu Kyokai)

September: The shindo-hi monument for Toshimichi OKUBO was built (the inscription was written by Meikaku KUSAKABE: Refer to the item of shindo-hi monuments).

June: The first exhibition of "Nihon Shodo-kai" was held (by Sao WATANABE at Ecoin Temple in Ryogoku).

November: "Shoen" was published (by Kindo KUROKI and "the Hosho-kai association").

August: Gochiku NAKABAYASHI died.

October: "Ryumin" was published (by (Fusetsu NAKAMURA).

"Heian Dokokai" (Heian Calligraphy Club) was established (by Kyozan YAMAMOTO).

January: "The Taisho exposition" was held.

February: "Rikucho shodo ron" (Discussions on the six dynasty style calligraphy) was published (translated by Reizan IDO and Fusetsu NAKAMURA).

"The Zuiun shodo-kai association" was established (by Shunkai BUNDO).

January: Yang Shoujing died.

August: Shundo NISHIKAWA died.

October: Sao WATANABE died.

January: "Zenkoku Shodo Taikai" (the national calligraphic competition) was held (by Shunkei MOROI at the Teikoku-Gekijo theatre)

May: "Daido Shokai" (the Daido calligraphic association) was established (by Ungai IHARA).

November: Mokuho MAEDA died.

April: Suiken SUZUKI started to learn under Kaikaku NIWA and Tenrai HIDAI.

May: Shunkei MOROI died.

September: "The Japan Art Academy" was established.

October: Shugyo OGUCHI died.

The name of "Heian Dokokai" was changed to "Heian Shodokai" (the Heian calligraphic association) (by Uzan NAGAO and others).

Sokyu UEDA started to learn under Ungai IHARA, Setsuchiku KONDO, and Tenrai HIDAI.

January: Meikaku KUSAKABE died.

April: "Tokyo Memorial Peace Exhibition" was held (the gold medal was awarded to Hosui MATSUMOTO, the silver medal to Hyakuren ONO and the copper medal to Izan SABURI).

December: Gado ONO died.

August: "Nihon Shodo Sakushin-kai" (literally, an association of promoting calligraphy in Japan) was established (by Shunkai BUNDO and others: Refer to the item of "Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies (before the war)").

May: "Shokagami" was published (by Shiyu TSUJIMOTO and "Neiraku Shodo-kai" (The Neiraku calligraphic association).

November: The first exhibition of "Nihon Shodo Sakushin-kai" was held (at Nihon Bijutsu Kyokai - Japan Art Association).

September: "A study of so-gana characters in the Heian period" was published (by Saishu ONOE from Yuzankaku, INC.).

December: Soken NOMURA died.

April: Ungai IHARA died. "Shodan" (the calligraphic society) was published (by Hochiku YOSHIDA).

July: The Boshin (戊辰) Shodo-kai association was established (refer to the item of "Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies - before the war").

October: Setsuchiku KONDO died. "The Shunko-kai association" (the predecessor of Kenshin Shodokai (the Kenshin calligraphic association) was established.

November: Hoshu SAITO died. The first exhibition of the Boshin (戊辰) Shodo-kai association was held (at the Nihon Bijutsu Kyokai).

February: "Shujino-tomo" (literally, friends of learning writing with brushes) was published (by Shundo NAKAMURA).

April: "Shunko-shu" (Shunko Calligraphy Collection) was published (by Yasushi NISHIKAWA).

May: "Sho no Hikari" (Light of Calligraphy) was published (by Hochiku YOSHIDA).

June: "Taito Shodo-in" (the Taito calligraphic association) was established (by Shunkai BUNDO and others: Refer to the item of "Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies - before the war").

November: The first exhibition of "Taito Shodo-in" was held (at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum).

March: A "Taito Shodo-in" mission to study Chinese calligraphy departed.

July: Kaikaku NIWA died. "Shodo Shunju" (literally, the springs and autumns of calligraphy) was published (by Tenrai HIDAI).

August: Masaomi BAN died.

October: "Kansai Shodo-kai" (The calligraphic association in Kansai) was established. "Shokei" (literally, characters written) was published (by Tairoku YANAGIDA).

November: Practical calligraphy" was published (by Tenrai HIDAI). "Calligraphy in the Six Dynasties" was published by (Yasushi NISHIKAWA and the Toa research society).

January: The first exhibition of "Kansai Shodo-kai" was held (at Mitsukoshi in Osaka).

April: "Toho Shodo-kai" (the Toho calligraphic association) was established (refer to the item of "Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies (before the war)").

May: Bokudo INUKAI died.

July: "Calligraphy" was published (by "Taito Shodo-in").
"Shokai" (Sea of calligraphy) was published (by Hosui MATSUMOTO)

May: "Kenshin Shodo-kai" (the Kenshin calligraphic association) was established.

July: The first exhibition of Kenshin Shodo-kai was held.

October: "Shodo Geijutsu-sha" (an organization for calligraphic art) was established, and "Shodo Geijutsu" (calligraphic art) was published (by Sokyu UEDA and Suiho KUWAHARA).

January: Kyozan YAMAMOTO died.

May: The Sanraku Shodo-kai association was established (by Hoshu WAKAUMI and others: refer to the item of "Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies - before the war").

October: "Chubu Nihon Shodo Renmei" (The calligraphic federation in central Japan) was established.

June: The first exhibition of "Chubu Nihon Shodo Renmei" was held (at the Nagoya City Art Museum). The exhibition of calligraphic works Gochiku NAKABAYASHI left was held (at Tokyo Prefectural Art Museum).

July: Reizan IDO died.

May: The 100th anniversary, comprehensive art exhibition of art was held by the Nihon Bijutsu Kyokai (Japan Art Association).

November: "The Shodo Hakubutsukan museum" was built (by Fusetsu NAKAMURA at Yanaka, Tokyo).

April: "Dainihon Shodo-in" (the Dainihon - literally, great Japan - calligraphic association) was established (by Tenrai HIDAI: refer to "Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies - before the war").

June: "The Japan Art Academy" was established.

July: The first exhibition of "Dainihon Shodo-in" was held (at Tokyo Prefectural Art Museum). "Shosei" was published (by Tenrai HIDAI).

November: The first members' exhibition of "Shodo Geijutsu-sha" (an organization for calligraphic art) was held (at Kyukyodo in Tokyo).

April: "Shonen Shojo Shodo" (Calligraphy for boys and girls) were published (by "Taito Shodo-in").

November: "Calligraphic exhibition for rapprochement between Japan and Manchuria) was held.

January: Tenrai HIDAI died.

February: "Koa Shodo Renmei" was established (by Katsu KAWASAKI: refer "Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies - before the war").

June: "Koa Shoho" was published (by "Koa Shodo Renmei").

September: The first exhibition of "Koa Shodo Renmei" was held (in Beijing, China and in other places).

May: Hochiku YOSHIDA died.

June: The exhibition of works Sao WATANABE left was held (at Kyukyodo in Tokyo).

January: "Shodan Kakushin Kyogikai" (literally, a council to innovate calligraphic society in Japan) was established (refer to the item of "Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies - before the war").

March: Hyakuren ONO died.

August: "Toa Shodo Kyokai" (The Toa calligraphic association) was established.

April: Uzan NAGAO died.

August: Izan SABURI died.

January: "The Daitoa Shodo-kai association" (literally, a calligraphic association in Great East Asia) was established (refer to; "Alignment and realignment of calligraphic bodies - before the war").

June: Fusetsu NAKAMURA died.

July:" The exhibition to reconstruct Nihon Shodo Bijutsu-in (Calligraphic art institute in Japan)" was held (at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum).

November, "the Japan Calligraphy Art Academy" was established.

March: "Association for promoting calligraphic education" was established (chaired by Shunkai BUNDO).

August: "Zenkoku Shodoten" (National Calligraphic Exhibition) was held (sponsored by The Mainichi Newspapers, at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum).

October: The fourth Japan Fine Arts Exhibition was held (calligraphy participated in the fifth category).

February: The name of "Nihon Shodo-in" (Japan calligraphic society) was changed to "Nihon Shoge-in" (Japan Calligraphic Art Society). Katsu KAWASAKI died.

March: The last genuine, teacher qualification test at the Ministry of Education was held.

May: "The Shodo Dobun-kai association" was established.

October: The fifth Nitten exhibition (Japan Fine Arts Exhibition) was held at the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum.

December: "Shohin" was established (by Yasushi NISHIKAWA and Joryu MATSUI)

February: Nihon Shosaku-in (Institute for writing calligraphy in Japan) was established.

October: The sixth the Nitten exhibition was held

April: "Nihon Shodo Renmei" (The calligraphic federation in Japan) was established. Brush-using calligraphy was restored as a formal learning course in the fourth and higher grades of elementary schools.

October: The seventh Nitten exhibition was held

April: "Dokuritsu Shodo-kai" (Independent Calligraphy Society) was established (by Yukei TESHIMA and others).

October: The eighth Nitten exhibition was held

September: Gakyu OSAWA died.

October: The ninth Nitten exhibition was held

February: Hekijo AKIYAMA died.

October: The tenth Nitten exhibition was held

October: The eleventh Nitten exhibition was held

October: The twelfth Nitten exhibition was held

January: "The exhibition of twenty great modern calligraphers" was held (sponsored by The Asahi Newspapers). Saishu ONOE died.

January: "Toho Shodo-in" (a calligraphic organization) was established (by Joryu MATSUI and others).

November: The thirteenth Nitten exhibition was held

December: Shiyu TSUJIMOTO died.

January: "Shodan Kyogikai" (the Council of the Calligraphic Society) was established.

March: Ryuseki HASEGAWA died.

[Original Japanese]