I chose this model of the Heart Sutra because it has been my own basis for shakyo for many years. I hope this model drives you to the practice of sutra copying and that you find it accessible.
At the beginning of my calligraphy training I spent many hours a day copying the Heart Sutra. In this way I acquired a good mastery of the brush movement, which led to some of the original Heart Sutra calligraphies you can see at the Shodo Art Gallery.
I like the personal and light character of this model. This regular script has an elegant balance and the overall pattern is smooth. The shaping of the characters requires some mastery of the brush movement, but the style does not present any further problems. The model is also pleasing to the eye. Some examples of sutra copying are perfectly written, but sometimes they lack expression and appear somewhat boring.
I would like to draw your attention to some details of this Heart Sutra. The calligrapher omitted some characters, which were added in the margin later on. In column 11, mu and shiki, in 18, iko and in 22, issai. In column 6 he probably changed the order of the two first characters by mistake. The small arrows on the right indicate the correction.
If you can copy the model perfectly, that is wonderful. But do not be too afraid of making mistakes that you become stiff; do not force yourself as if you were a scribe having to pass an official test. Rather do sutra copying as a dynamic meditation, full of awareness and mindfulness. Perfection lies in this attitude.
In my sutra copying page I show you how to write the Heart Sutra. Feel free to print or download this example of the Heart Sutra for personal use.
Copies of the Heart Sutra brushed by Masters of Chinese Calligraphy
Here are some more examples of the Heart Sutra brushed by Chinese Master Calligraphers.
Heart sutra in regular script or kaisho by Ou-yang Hsün.
Ou-yang Hsün (Ouyang Xun,557-641) is one of the prominent calligraphers of the T’ang dynasty. As you can see from his copy of the Heart Sutra his calligraphy reveals an austere spirit full of vigor. The brush strokes in regular script are straight and angular and the characters are extremely well balanced. This model has a rigorous character, but not without dignity and grace.
If you like Ou Yang Hsün’s style, this is an excellent, clear copy.
I myself find it sometimes difficult to copy Ou-yang Hsün , as I experience the structure of the characters in regular script sometimes too tight. Nevertheless I always get back to Ou-yang Hsün ‘s calligraphy to recompose mind and brush.
Ou-yang Hsün’s Heart Sutra In Regular Script or Kaisho, Part 1
Ou-yang Hsün’s Heart Sutra In Regular Script or Kaisho, Part 2
You can download a higher resolution picture here.
Buying A Heart Sutra Shakyo Book – Models from Chinese Calligraphy Masters
I have made a small selection of shakyo models in regular script or kaisho, brushed by great Chinese calligraphy masters, such as Ou-yang Hsün, Liu Gongquan and Pu Ru. I highly recommend the book “Chinese Calligraphy of Heart Sutra “, a contrastive edition of Heart Sutra copies brushed by calligraphers from different Chinese dynasties.
I have come across this copybook of the Heart Sutra by Ou-yang Hsün printed on a magic cloth. This might be a nice introduction to Sutra copying for beginners. You fill the printed characters on the magic cloth in with water and as the water evaporates, the strokes disappear and you can use the copy again. Check out this magic cloth of the Heart Sutra by Ou-yang Hsün.
A unique copy of the Heart Sutra in seal script
If you would like to expand your experience of sutra copying you could try to make a copy of the Heart Sutra in seal script. You can find the entire Heart Sutra in seal script brushed by myself in my new book The Heart Sutra in Calligraphy: A Visual Appreciation of The Perfection of Wisdom.