TANCHU TERAYAMA and Zen Calligraphy: Hitsuzendo
- Some material on this calligraphy artist and
.. .. .. .. R'U'
Zen Calligraphy Exhibition
From the Japan Times of January 5, 2005
Following the line to enlightenment
By T. ROBIN KELLEY
Special to The Japan Times
In order to write an article about renowned Zen master Tanchu
Terayama's Hitsuzendo calligraphy exhibition, I was offered the rare
opportunity to visit his mountain retreat in Ibaraki Prefecture to
participate in a workshop with Terayama himself. I first got a call
from Terayama's most dedicated student, Sarah Moate, an Oxford art
history graduate from Britain and the only foreigner displaying work
in the exhibition, who suggested I attend one of her lessons as an
introduction to Terayama's teachings.
Like the master, she holds an inka (certificate of enlightenment),
and is qualified to teach Zen calligraphy.
I'm not an 8 a.m. Saturday morning kind of learner, but was consoled
by the thrilling prospect of being instructed in the subtle art of
shodo -- brushwork kanji. The next morning, before getting anywhere
near paper and a brush, I found myself with two other students
barefoot in the grass, following Moate as she led us through
exercises where we stretched, shouted and gasped.
In one exercise, she raised her hands and softly swayed in the air,
making the shape of the character mu (nothing). We repeated the
motion over and over, first with our arms, then with our bodies,
arching to the right and then slumping over lifelessly, exhaling with
the last kinetic "stroke." What did all this have to do with
True to the spirit of Zen: everything . . . and nothing. "[The
exercises] are important in achieving 'no mind,' " Terayama said the
at the workshop. "With them we can cut through the daily distractions
of life. Then the line will be clean and pure and those looking at it
will be purified."
Terayama's teachings of Hitsuzendo (The Way of the Zen Brush) were
inspired by a lineage of Zen greats beginning with Yamaoka Tesshu in
the late 1800s, who sought to elevate calligraphy above a fine art
form to a spiritual tool for focusing the mind. What makes Hitsuzendo
unique is that it eschews the methods of calligraphy prevalent
The theoretical study of aesthetics, symmetry and form takes a
backseat -- Hitsu zendo would rather focus on the energy within the
line. "You're not trying to aim for attractive lines," Moate
said. "What happens is you become awakened by the writing, and in
that way you may produce something beautiful, but that's not the
This focus was apparent at the dojo when were were first asked to
practice by painting kanji on sheets of newspaper. Each piece was
whisked away as soon as the brush was lifted off the paper, then
folded and stacked on to a pile to be discarded. "The idea is,
nothing is precious," Moate explained.
If the quality of the line reveals the inner person, my inner person
was clumpy, uneven and prone to sailing off the paper. Yet Terayama
had nothing but praise for me, saying that the characters were
strong, and that I did a great job holding my brush softly. "Soft but
strong, you can't get much better than that!" Moate whispered.
Such an encouraging approach, and handy English translation, makes it
hardly a surprise the workshop is popular with foreigners. Terayama,
a Rinzai Zen master, has taught more than 250 students from 10
countries, and the English translation of his book "Zen Brushwork:
Focusing the Mind With Calligraphy and Painting," (Kodansha) is
Aiming for as broad an appeal as possible, the book includes black-
and-white photographs of Terayama and Moate practicing the ki (vital
energy) exercises in addition to a calligraphy how-to and an
appreciation of work by ancient Zen masters who have influenced
Moate started her search for for a master after receiving her inka,
which is the highest honor you can receive from a teacher, it also
represents the permission for you to become one. Throughout her six
years of study, Terayama and Moate have often traveled to Europe and
the United States together sharing Hitsuzendo with groups who gather
from various parts of the world eager to experience the workshops and
Moate has also earned the distinction of being the only foreigner
with a piece of work in the Hitsuzendo exhibition currently showing
in Ginza, but both she and Terayama are quick to dismiss the
significance of this. "There is no difference between East and West,"
Terayama said. "Zen is to go beyond these dualistic boundaries,
beyond ego and national identity. One's state of heart and mind will
be revealed in the line."
The exhibition will consist of an assortment of work from students
ranging in age from 20 to 97 years old. It also boasts some museum-
worthy relics from Terayama's personal collection.
One is a piece by Ekaku Hakuin (1685-1765). Terayama calls Hakuin the
most influential Zen monk of the past 500 years. A prolific artist
who produced over 1000 brush paintings and calligraphy during his
lifetime, Hakuin was one of the first to develop breathing and
exercise techniques to aid the study of Zen. The piece is
called "Settled" and reads: "Fix yourself in the best place. Know
exactly where to stop." It was painted in 1765 and is one of Hakuin's
most revered works.
"These are the kinds of treasures that people keep hidden in temples
and are only revealed at certain times of the year," Moate says. "It
would be like seeing an original Leonardo [da Vinci], first-hand, not
behind glass." Hakuin was 80 years old when he created the piece. It
is fitting since the age of the contributors is one of the most
striking aspects of this exhibition. Shown alongside the work of his
students, Terayama has assembled calligraphy and paintings from many
guests -- all of whom are over 80 years old.
"Older people are more aware of the links between the things in the
natural world," Terayama said. The master won't have much of his own
work in the show. He said he will wait a few more years for his 70th
birthday, as exhibitions could become distractions that will take
over his world. For now, this one will suffice.
"All I really hope for is that people will see it and leave the
exhibition feeling healthy and more uplifted," says Terayama. And as
the master himself will be on hand to discuss the work, visitors may
even find the experience enlightening.
The Hitsuzendo calligraphy exhibition will be shown till Jan. 9, 11
a.m.-7 p.m., at the Kyukyodo Gallery, 5-7-4 Ginza (Ginza Station 4-
chome exit). For more information call (03) 3574-0058. Free
admission. The Hitsuzendo sessions at Fuji Dojo focus on breathing
and ki-raising techniques as well as zazen and brushwork practice,
taught in English; Zen brushwork classes in English, at Sangubashi
Station on the Odakyu line (near Meiji Jingu) on the 4th Sunday of
each month. 1,000 yen charged for materials. For more information on
both contact hitsuzendo@...
The Japan Times: Jan. 5, 2005
Focusing the Mind with Calligraphy and Painting
Translated by Thomas F. Judge, John Stevens
[ About the Book ]
With its bold strokes and mystic aura, Zen calligraphy has fascinated
Westerners for decades, yet it remains an abstract, rarely practiced
form of expression outside of Asia. Now, master calligrapher Tanchu
Terayama explains the techniques behind this subtle art and offers
step-by-step instructions for practicing it on a professional level.
After introducing the basics, Terayama presents a unique meditative
warm-up to establish the proper mental attitude needed to release
one's creative energies. Next, the power of the brushed line is
explained and demonstrated. What makes a good line or a bad one, an
expressive effort or an unfocused one? Lessons on brushing symbolic
Japanese characters follow, including those
for "emptiness," "nothingness," and "flower." The painting section
shows readers how to draw the spare yet elegant pictorial themes of
this classic art: bamboo, plum blossoms, Mount Fuji, and the
inspirational Zen priest Daruma.
If the exercises are the heart of the book, the Appreciation section
is the soul. This chapter introduces classic works from renowned
priests and other historical figures, including Miyamoto Musashi (the
celebrated swordsman and author of The Book of Five Rings), Morihei
Ueshiba (the founder of aikido), Jigoro Kano (the father of judo),
and Zen priest Hakuin. Each masterpiece is accompanied by penetrating
commentary on the strengths and salient features of the work.
Rarely has Zen calligraphy been demonstrated and discussed with such
candor and insight. Illuminating yet another side of Zen, Zen
Brushwork will be an invaluable source to those interested in
meditation, Zen, Buddhism, the martial arts, and Oriental traditions
What is Zen Calligraphy?
Calligraphy (sho) is a formative art based on writing. It includes
not only writing that is beautiful, but phrases that are novel and
interesting. According to the Japanese philosopher Nishida Kitaro
(1870-1945; see figure 1), true creativity is not the product of a
conscious effort but rather the "phenomenon of life itself." True
creation must arise from mu-shin, or the state of "no-mind," a state
beyond thought, emotions, and expectations. Work that is produced
through conscious effort is ultimately devoid of life.
Zen calligraphy in particular must spring from shonen sozoku, a
Buddhist term equivalent to "true thought." Shonen is a state of full
concentration that is devoid of thoughts and ideas, while sozoku here
means "free-flowing continuity." Greatness in brushwork cannot be
achieved through conscious effort; it is only achieved through the
states of mu-shin and shonen sozuku, or "no-mind" and a continuous
state free of the thoughts and ideas that distract the mind.
Zen calligraphy differs from other calligraphic disciplines as it is
focused on the realization of "no-mind." Furthermore, in contrast
tosho, which uses Chinese characters as a basis, it is the expression
of Zen through a brush, whether the result is a single stroke, a Zen
circle, or an ink painting. While sho is restricted to brushed
writing, Zen calligraphy extends to other forms of brushwork.
Nearly all calligraphy today is born of conscious attention to an
aesthetic concept, but we rarely find lines that are truly alive. In
contrast, the calligraphy of Zen masters such as Daito Kokushi (1282-
1337; founder of Daitokuji temple in Kyoto) or Ikkyu Sojun (1394-
1481) resonates with the energy of "no-mind" achieved through
complete concentration. In these works, the lines are filled with
vitality and the shapes are fresh and original.
Sen no Rikyu (1522-91), who established many of the basic precepts of
the tea ceremony, held that nothing surpassed Zen calligraphy as a
subject for display in the alcove of the tea room. He undoubtedly
felt that only art works that reflect the eternal vitality of Zen
writings could encourage the mind toward enlightenment.
Rikyu recognized that calligraphy necessarily demands the highest
level of spirituality. A line that manifests clarity cannot be drawn
if the heart is clouded by worldly concerns; a stroke cannot be
brushed with resolution if the heart is agitated; and calligraphy
that reveals depth cannot be produced if cultivation and experience
To write kanji characters that resonate and demonstrate their deeper
meaning, one's own mind must achieve unity with the meaning of the
words-a requirement that calls for a higher level of spirituality.
The calligrapher, therefore, must strive for the state of "no-mind"
through meditation and contemplation.
Tanchu Terayama is a professor at Nishogakusha University and the co-
author of Zen and the Art of Calligraphy. His collection of historic
calligraphy was the subject of an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert
Museum in London.
Thomas F. Judge is a Japanese-English translator now based in the San
Francisco area. He has lived in Kanazawa, Osaka, and Tokyo, where he
pursued his interest in Japanese crafts. He is the author of Edo
Craftsmen: Master Artisans of Old Tokyo, a look at living
craftspeople working in traditional crafts.
John Stevens is Professor of Buddhist Studies, as well as Aikido
Instructor, at Tohoku Fukushi University in Sendai, Japan. He has
been associated with Tanchu Terayama for nearly thirty years and has
written a biography of Yamaoka Tesshu, The Sword of No-Sword, as well
as many other books on various aspects of Asian culture.
ZEN CALLIGRAPHT exhibition
** picture of the kanji DRAGON ** by Yamaoka Tesshuu
This exhibition focuses on the highly charged and often powerfully
gestural works of many of the great names of the Zen calligraphic
tradition. It provides a rare opportunity to see a genre of work
that, despite its centrality to the Japanese artistic canon, has had
little exposure in Britain. The works will be rotated in early
October. On Saturday 8 and 15 September there will be drop-in
calligraphy workshops in the Toshiba Gallery.
On Sunday 9 and 16 September, there will be swordsmanship, breathing
exercise and calligraphy demonstrations in the Lecture Theatre. The
workshops and demonstrations are being led by Professor Tanchu
Terayama, who founded the Society for the Way of the Zen Brush
(Hitsuzendo) in 1977 to further the principle expounded by Yamaoka
Tesshu(1836-1888) that Zen, swordsmanship and calligraphy are one and
the same in their aspiration to the state of 'no-mind'.