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Wayō shodō (和様書道, わようしょどう, i.e. “Japanese style calligraphy”)

One of two major trends in Japanese calligraphy. The other one is called karayō shodō (唐様書道, からようしょどう, lit. “Tang (dynasty) style calligraphy”). Wayō shodō was a response to pursuing aesthetics native to Japan, by members of the upper class, and introducing them to the Chinese art of calligraphy. During the mid-Heian period (平安時代, へいやんじだい, 794 - 1185), and more precisely the 10th century, a significant change in Japanese calligraphy took place. It is when Ono no Michikaze (小野道風, おの の みちかぜ, 894–966, who is also known as Ono no Tōfū) introduced a fresh approach and the first truly Japanese style, which today is referred to as wayō shodō (和様書道, lit. “Japanese style calligraphy”). This trend however, was originally brought into being earlier by possibly the greatest Japanese calligrapher of all time, a Shingon (真言宗, しんごんしゅう, Shingon shū, i.e. “a major Japanese Buddist sect”) priest and Sanskrit scholar, Kūkai (空海, くうかい, 774–835). Kūkai, together with Emperor Saga (嵯峨天皇, さがてんのう, 786–842) and Tachibana no Hayanari (橘逸勢, たちばな の はやなり, 782-842), was one of the famous “three brushes” (三筆, さんぴつ, sanpitsu) of the 9th century. Each of them had a profound influence on the development of calligraphy in Japan. They also laid the foundations for wayō shodō. At this point it became acceptable for Japanese literature and calligraphy to finally deviate from Chinese aesthetics.

Originally, wayō shodō was based on sōgana (草仮名, そうがな, i.e. “cursive kana”) and kana (かな, i.e “Japanese kana calligraphy script”), which were derived from manyōgana (万葉仮名, まんようがな, i.e. “kana of ten thousand leaves”).

During the Edo period (江戸時代, えどじだい, 1603 – 1868) a new style based on wayō shodō was created, known as o-ie ryū (御家流, おいえりゅう, lit. “noble family style”).

Nowadays, avant-garde calligraphy (前衛書道, ぜんえいしょどう, zen-ei shodō) represents the modern trend of wayō shodō.

Please click here to read more about the history of Japanese calligraphy.

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Page last modified on November 15, 2011, at 06:15 AM