The calligraphy books that I comment have all been inseparable from my own practice. Some are true classics about Chinese and Japanese calligraphy, others focus more on the body mind integration aspect of this art, and finally some present a specific calligrapher or painter.
The practice of Chinese or Japanese calligraphy and sumi painting requires a deep study of its technique, philosophy and history. Regretfully, only a small part of the vast heritage of writings on this art has been translated into Western languages. Nevertheless, you can still find excellent reference calligraphy books to widen your knowledge of this art and educate your eye.
Seeking After The Sublime
One of the most creative Chinese painters of our time, Chang Dai chien, a lion among painters, gave ten working guidelines for calligraphers and painters. In the fifth point: Seeking After The Sublime, he says,
The painter should read books, cultivate his nature and remove himself from what is earthly and vulgar.
One always gains something when opening a book…
To understand Japanese calligraphy one should first read about Chinese calligraphy, as Japanese calligraphy was born from it.
Chinese calligraphy classics
Chinese Calligraphy. An Introduction to its Aesthetics and Technique by Chiang Yee – A classical work for everyone who wants to understand and learn Chinese or Japanese calligraphy. The very basics of writing, technique, training and aesthetics, are explained in a very clear and sound language.
The calligraphic styles are well illustrated and provide to the apprentice a basic overview of each style and their essential exponents in the history of Chinese calligraphy.
Whether you are an enthusiast, beginner or advanced practitioner of calligraphy, you can always return to this book. It clarifies doubts and through repeated reading it settles the basics for all the different aspects of calligraphy.
The Chinese Art of Writing by Jean Francois Billeter
Billeter is one of the most genius occidental writers on the art of Chinese writing. In his book he accomplished the difficult task of introducing the reader to the subtle esoteric aspects of calligraphy, which no other western author until now has been capable to do so.
In the first chapters he explains thoroughly the techniques and craft of calligraphy. Then he goes on to highlight the inner principles, the hidden springs of this art.
I recommend this book to every one who wants to have a deeper insight in the profound working of the art of calligraphy, an art of inner transformation.
Very few of the Chinese treatises on the inner aspects of calligraphy are translated into Western languages, therefore this work is very unique. Its reading is a must for everyone who wants to progress on the way of writing.
The reader will also find a true visual pleasure as the author has taken special care of the illustrations.
Chinese Calligraphy. An Introduction by TC Lai
This is an exhaustive reference book on the history of Chinese Calligraphy. Every epoch is well documented with its representative calligraphers. For each artist you find the biographic details and a short introduction to the art work.
The well chosen examples and reproductions of the calligraphies make this comprehensive overview of the history of Chinese calligraphy complete.
T.C. Lai’s book is especially helpful if you want to familiarize yourself with the peculiarities of each calligrapher and its time.
Japanese calligraphy and zen calligraphy
Zen and the Art of Calligraphy by Omori Sogen and Terayama Katsujo
The late zen master Omori Sogen introduces the reader to the essentials of Zen calligraphy and presents an overwhelming collection of enlightened calligraphy done by monks, nuns and layman. The selected works cover the mayor subjects of Zen art: enso, ichi, ichigyo, and Bodhidharma.
This book is excellent to become acquainted with the most important Zen artists and their works. The reader will also find a short introduction into the practice of Zen calligraphy.
The Sword of No-Sword: The Life of the Master Warrior Tesshu by John Stevens
This book is an outstanding biography of Yamaoka Tesshu a great master of kendo of the 19th century Japan. Tesshu is less known as a calligraphy master, although his calligraphies ascend like the dragon in the clear sky.
This biography is of special interest for calligraphy practitioners looking for the union of Zen, martial arts and calligraphy. The book is very well illustrated with Yamaoka’s calligraphies, a treasure, which can hardly be find in Western publications.
An inspiring book about a great spirit.
Sacred Calligraphy of the East by John Stevens – J. Stevens takes the reader on a wonderful journey through the three living traditions of sacred calligraphy of the East; Siddham calligraphy, Tibetan calligraphy and Japanese calligraphy.
The Japanese calligraphy section provides exhaustive historical and practical information on the practice of calligraphy as a meditation. Of special interest is the chapter on sutra copying and zen calligraphy.
The book is extremely well illustrated with examples of ancient and nowadays calligraphers.
The enthusiastic effort of the author to illustrate the sacred calligraphy of the East with the best examples of past and present calligraphers makes this book to an overflowing source that will surely sink into the reader.
Everyone interested in the practice of calligraphy as spiritual practice should read this book.
The Heart Sutra in Calligraphy. A visual appreciation of the Perfection of Wisdom by Nadja Van Ghelue
I have been practicing sutra copying of the Heart Sutra for a long time and I thought it was time to gather all my knowledge and experience of shakyo and calligraphy in a book. In association with Stone Bridge Press, a Berkeley based publisher of quality Asian books, I have published my book The Heart Sutra in Calligraphy: A Visual Appreciation of The Perfection of Wisdom.
It is a copy of the Heart Sutra, entirely brushed by myself, which marries the emptiness teachings to the ancient characters of the Chinese seal script.
If you are fascinated by the beauty of Chinese and Japanese calligraphy and are studying the Heart Sutra, you shouldn’t miss my book as it will give you an entirely new, visual experience of the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra.
Enjoy my book!
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