Sunday, November 1, 2009

How to Write Kanji

DNA: Lifestyle: Strokes of elegance
How to write kanji | NihongoUp
How to write kanji

Posted on October 31st, 2009 by seifip in Design, Language |

When a student is taught kanji, one of the first thing that is explained to him is the concept of stroke order—the one and only correct way of writing kanji characters. Unfortunately, the reason behind it as well as the main rules are often left undiscussed. Most students are left wondering about why they are supposed to learn one more characteristic for each of the already complicated character, and some of them decide not to follow any of the well established rules at all. In this article I’ll try to explain why it generally is important to use correct stroke order and what are the basic rules that should cover the majority of the kanji characters.
Why is kanji stroke order important? Lean the art of Calligraphy

First of all, unlike the Latin alphabet (or Cyrillic, for that matter) the Chinese characters and their Japanese deviations are always monospaced—each character occupies the same amount of space. When you combine this typographic rule with the often incredible amount of strokes involved, it becomes clear, why writing nicely looking characters may be so difficult. Shodō (書道, Japanese calligraphy) is an art that was practiced for centuries in Japan and thus, the proper way of writing kanji is a very well researched topic. You may not believe it at first, but try writing the same kanji with different stroke orders and you’ll see the difference. Moreover, in Japan, an opinion about you may be formed based on your calligraphy. In the same way as by speaking improperly, your bad handwriting may make a bad impression on the others.

Windows 7 TIP Japanese - Handwriting recognition

Secondly, stroke order is a great learning aid. Especially for some of the more complicated characters, one may forget how precisely a it character look, yet remember how to write it by following the correct order. This phenomenon is called motor memory and you probably already experience it in your every day life. Actually, neuromuscular facilitation is involved even in basic task like speech—one doesn’t think about complex tongue, lips, and other movements—and is the primary cause of accents.

At last, traditional paper kanji dictionaries are often organized by stroke order, and even if one decides to use computer handwriting recognition—be it a Tablet PC, a smartphone, or a dedicated denshi jisho (電子辞書, electronic dictionary)—it will work best if you use the correct stroke order.

Posted on October 31st, 2009 by seifip in Design, Language

Read more at: NihongoUp Blog

Friday, May 15, 2009

Calligraphy Strokes of Elegance

DNA: Lifestyle: Strokes of elegance
Mumbai: You've seen those beautifully handwritten scripts inscribed on stone monuments or in religious manuscripts written on palm leaves. Now see scripts come alive through calligraphy on T-shirts, CD covers, wedding cards, mugs, books, fashion wear and even as body art.

The aesthetics of calligraphy, i.e. the art of beautiful handwriting, has transcended into the commercial realm rather than being just confined to sophisticated use.

Achyut Palav, a celebrated city-based calligrapher and alumni of J.J. School of Art has a studio stocked with various products done in calligraphy. Ranging from mugs, glass items to T-shirts and books, the items are worth a buy. Palav is credited to having presented calligraphic prints in a fashion show, designing logos, body painting, home interiors, event invites, wallpapers and book covers etc. "Calligraphy can be done using different techniques and in different media. I have travelled all over India and have noticed that there still exists a lacuna in the execution and utility of calligraphy" he says, adding further that he has plans to open a calligraphy school very soon.

Says Santosh Kshirsagar, 49, professor at theJ.J. School of Art who has been in the field of calligraphy and typography for 20 years now, the key to popularising calligraphy lies in interacting with the youth and making them not only appreciate calligraphy but also motivate them to take up calligraphy in the indigenous Indian scripts. "Calligraphy is not just about acquiring the skill but it is equally about expressing yourself and adding your interpretation to the art work," he says.

Kshirsagar also insists that introduction of calligraphy at the school level is vital.
At present though, J.J. School of Art runs a four year degree course in Applied Art with specialisation in photography, typography and illustration among other subjects. Calligraphy is part of the typography course. Calligraphy artists feel the scope for students learning calligraphy nowadays is varied and well paying. Since the demand has grown and commercial requirements are manifold, a student can choose to be part of the professional world in areas like jewellery designing, body art, fashion, advertising and films and begin earning a minimum salary of Rs15,000.

While western calligraphy takes its root from the Roman alphabets, Chinese and Japanese calligraphy are still deeply entrenched in their day-to-day local tradition in the form of artefacts and gifts. Nepalese, Tibetan, Iranian calligraphy have also stood the test of the time. With 10 scripts existing in India, when it comes to Indian calligraphy, there is scope for a lot more work.

Read the rest of the Calligraphy Story

Wooden Doll Does Calligraphy

Robots: Karakuri Ningyo carries out Calligraphy

Karakuri Ningyo carries out Calligraphy

Having seen autoportrait-robot-painter now, here is Japanese wooden doll Robot that performs Calligraphy.

This doll looks sweet and charming and looks more like a sculpture than a robot. It is a formation by Hisashige Tanaka the founder of Toshiba. In Japanese such dolls are called Karakuri Ningyo and were mechanized in Japan from the 18th century to 19th century. Karakuri means puppet while Ningyo means person and shape.

Read the rest of the story and watch the Calligraphy doll video

Sunday, January 18, 2009

3D Calligraphy Explores the Meaning of Words

The Korea Herald : The Nation's No.1 English Newspaper
A black and red sculpture stands in the middle of the main street in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul. Curvy and fluid, the three-meter tall sculpture evokes a pair of graceful red-crested cranes spreading out their wings. It is "Poe," by sculptor Lee Jae-ok.

One will be surprised to find out that it was also intended to be shaped like the Chinese letter "Poe," which means to spread out. It is Lee's style to transform two-dimensional calligraphy into a three-dimensional sculpture.

Lee's solo exhibition is currently running at Juliana Gallery in Cheongdam-dong. The first floor of the gallery is packed with the artist's colorful calligraphy-originated sculptures.

"When I make the letters into sculptures, both its indicative and figurative charms are brought to light," Lee told The Korea Herald.

Her method is possible because Chinese letters are pictographic. But she does not simply stick to expressing the letters' original meanings. Instead, Lee translates the lines and shapes of each letter in her own way and creates new figures.

For example, Lee turned the Chinese letter "lak," which means to enjoy, into a yellow flower. Not only does the shape resemble the letter, but the vivid color and the bouncy lines itself are very joyful. Naturally, she titled the work "Pleasure."

"An-yang" resembles a couple dancing the waltz. The turquoise figure, which seems to be the male, leads the dance and the yellow figure follows in tiptoes like the female dancer. Dancing peacefully is what came to Lee's mind when she thought of the word "An-yang," which means to relax.

Lee Jae Ok's work is better acclaimed overseas than in Korea. "These were showcased in many art fairs such as Art Cologne or Art Chicago and received a great applause," said Juliana Park, director of Juliana Gallery, to The Korea Herald.

"Foreigners found them very unique because it is a totally different type of sculpture from what they used to see. They are fascinated at the fact that calligraphy can be turned into sculptures, and at the works' oriental beauty."

The colorful works now on display are Lee's third version of the series. She had first made them in a more simple tone with bronze and nickel.

"More creative and fancier versions will be coming up next," Lee said.

The exhibition runs through Jan. 31 at Juliana Gallery in southern Seoul. For more information, call (02) 514-4266.

By Park Min-young

Power in the Word of Calligraphy

Words, says a Chinese calligrapher, have the potential of becoming more powerful than any weapon invented by man.

ASK Tony Yong what’s in a word and this 50-year-old Chinese
calligrapher will tell you that this is where the entire knowledge of
universe is housed.

Wording it right: Yong opines that Chinese calligraphy is a bit like kung fu.

Words, opines this father of three, have the potential of becoming more powerful than any weapon invented by man.

is this realisation that makes this former amateur jockey take his work
very seriously, more so during the Lunar New Year season when the
Chinese embark on a massive campaign of sorts to ensure they start the
New Year with a positive frame of mind.

And speaking of words,
one of Yong’s favourite phrases is, “We must be grateful for the number
of years that heaven has bestowed upon us.”

shine: Yong grinding an ink stick on an ink stone. Characters written
with this type of ink has a glossier and longer-lasting effect.

“This is very fitting for the new year season as it reminds us that we should never be apprehensive about growing older.

is why I like Alan Tam’s (popular Hong Kong singer) attitude where he
maintains he will always be 25 years old. One need not be afraid of
growing old as long as one remains young at heart,” said Yong who jogs
and does yoga every morning to keep fit.

Of course it does make one wonder why such an active character like Yong had opted for a desk job.

Prized work : An excerpt from one of Li Bai’s (ancient Chinese scholar) novels carved on wood.

“Do you know that doing Chinese calligraphy is a bit like kung fu?” Yong disclosed.

According to this self-taught artist, the process of writing each character requires a high level of consciousness.

each stroke that is executed, the artist has to know the amount of
pressure to exert, the type of hand movement to employ and the amount
of ink can be loaded onto the brush.

Even the length of time the tip is in contact with the scroll is taken into consideration.

Yong would affirm that it is the peace he experiences during the
process which has made him stay in the profession for the past seven

Read more of the story about Calligraphy

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Science Journal Accidentally Prints Chinese Smut On Cover

The journal of the distinguished Max Planck Institute in Germany wanted to do a special issue about China, and ordered up some "classical" Chinese calligraphy for the cover. Too bad they didn't hire translators.

They consulted a "German sinologist," but that person obviously didn't provide the same translation that some Chinese readers of the scientific journal did:

With high salaries, we have cordially invited for an extended series of matinées. KK and Jiamei as directors, who will personally lead jade-like girls in the spring of youth, beauties from the north who have a distinguished air of elegance and allure, young housewives having figures that will turn you on; Their enchanting and coquettish performance will begin within the next few days.

Sounds like James Bond should start reading scientific journals from the Max Planck Institute. He loves an "enchanting and coquettish performance." Apparently, so do German scientists!

I believe it is safe to say that cross-cultural understanding in the scientific community just keeps growing bigger and longer.

Science Magazine Turns the Heat Up [via Foreign Policy Passport]

Sunday, September 14, 2008

World's Largest Calligraphy Completed

A mammoth work employing the skills of 10,000 people has just been
completed in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous region. The work has already
earned recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the
calligraphy work with the highest number of contributors.

A mammoth work employing the skills of 10-thousand people has just been completed in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous region.
A mammoth work employing the skills of 10,000 people has just
been completed in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous region.

The huge calligraphy piece was accomplished in Wuhai city in Inner
Mongolia. Wednesday's unveiling was accompanied by a performance of
folk arts. The art piece is ten meters long and three metres wide.

The piece is inscribed with the characters "Tai Yang Shen", the
Chinese characters for "God of Sun." It's a deity worshipped by the
ancestors of people who live in the area today. Local calligrapher Wang
Qijing wielded the huge brush to accomplish the central characters of
the work. Then ten thousand local people joined in to create the three
Chinese characters in different styles of calligraphy. The scroll also
bears the totem of the ancient Sun God.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Benedictines' hand-created Saint John's Bible

An international team of calligraphers and artists is working on The Saint John's Bible, portions of which are presently on display at the Tacoma Art Museum. It's the first commissioned handwritten, illustrated Bible in 500 years.

Seattle Times religion reporter

PREV 1 of 2 NEXT

Enlarge this photo


Scribes working on The Saint John's Bible created their own goose-feather quills. Quills are more supple than metal pens and allow the ink to flow freely, producing fine hairlines at the end of strokes.

Scribes working on The Saint John's Bible created their own goose-feather quills. Quills are more supple than metal pens and allow the ink to flow freely, producing fine hairlines at the end of strokes.

"Illuminating the Word: The Saint John's Bible"

• The exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum runs through Sept. 7 and features about 100 pages from The Saint John's Bible.

Information: 253-272-4258 or

• Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral hosts a lecture by the Rev. Eric Hollas on The Saint John's Bible, 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, in the cathedral's Bloedel Hall, 1245 10th Ave. E., Seattle. Free and open to the public.

• Vashon Island artist Suzanne Moore discusses her work on the project at0 10:30 a.m. Aug. 12 (free with museum admission), and 7 p.m. Aug. 21 (free program and admission as part of Free Third Thursday) at Tacoma Art Museum.

These days, when Bible verses can be pulled up instantly online and printed Bibles are readily available, an international team of monks, calligraphers and artists — including an illustrator on Vashon Island — is creating a Bible the old-fashioned way.

Team members are making their own goose-feather quills, using hand-ground paints, and writing and drawing on pages of treated calfskin.

They're eight years into the creation of The Saint John's Bible, billed as the first commissioned handwritten Bible since the invention of the printing press some 500 years ago.

Creating a masterpiece

The idea for a handwritten Bible, Hollas said, came from Jackson.

Jackson has said that creating such a work is to a calligrapher what painting the Sistine Chapel would be to an artist.

For the monks at Saint John's Abbey and Saint John's University, which jointly commissioned the $3.5 million project, there were plenty of reasons not to start the project. There was the cost and amount of work involved — not to mention a long list of competing priorities, among which "making a Bible was not high," Hollas said.

Hollas said such personal touches distinguish handwritten, illustrated Bibles.

Calligraphy can have shadings in the same way music can — quiet like a string section, dramatic like brass. That's very different from print Bibles, in which the same typeface is used to describe walking through the Red Sea, Jesus' crucifixion and the dietary restrictions of traditional Judaism.

"With calligraphy, you can let the emotions speak in a way that print does not," Hollas said.

And there's something to be said for the role of art in inspiring and deepening faith.

Biblical tradition is not just about abstract concepts, rules and laws, said Gregory Wolfe, publisher and editor of Image, a national journal based at Seattle Pacific University that explores art and faith.

Read the complete story by Janet I. Tu

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Persian Calligrpahy

source: The Middle East Interest

History of Persian Scripts: In the ancient Persia and in the different historic eras, languages such as “Ilami”, “Avestaaee”, “Pahlavi”, and “Farsi-e-Mianeh” were spoken. It is believed that ancient Persian script was invented by about 500-600 BC to provide monument inscriptions for the Achaemenid kings. These scripts consisted of horizontal, vertical, and diagonal nail-shape letters and that is the reason in Farsi it is called “Script of Nails” or “Khat-e-Mikhi”.Ancient Persian Script - “Script of Nails” or “Khat-e-Mikhi”Centuries later, other scripts” script such as “Avestaee” and “Pahlavits were created.

The Avestan alphabet or “Avestaaee” was created in the 3rd century CE for writing the hymns of Zarathustra. Avestan is an extinct Indo-Iranian language related to Old Persian and Sanskrit. Avestaaee script was related to the religious scripts of Zoroastrians’ holy book called “Avestaa” and unlike the nail script -that was carved on flat stones-Avestaaee script was written with a feather pen, usually on animal-skin pages. It is surprising that this script has similarities with Arabic scripts such as “Sols” and “Naskh” that centuries later were invented. However, unlike these scripts, letters in Avestaaee were not connected to each other to form a word but they just were written separately next to each other (similar to Latin scripts). However it wrote from right to left.

Old Persian Script: “Pahlavi” Script

Old Persian Script: “Avestaaee” Script

After initiation of Islam in the 7 th century, Persians adapted Arabic alphabet to Farsi language and developed contemporary Farsi alphabet. Arabic alphabet has 28 characters and Iranians added another four letters in it to arrive at existing 32 Persian (Farsi) letters.

Contemporary Persian Script: “Farsi” Script

Major Contemporary Classical Persian Calligraphy Scripts: “Nas’taliq” is the most popular
contemporary style among classical Persian calligraphy scripts. It is known as “Bride of the
Calligraphy Scripts”. As a matter of fact, this calligraphy style has been based on such a strong structure that it has changed very little since that time. It is as if “Mir Ali Tabrizi” has found the optimum composition of the letters and graphical rules so it has just been fine-tuned during the passed seven centuries. Nas’taliq is the most beautiful Persian Calligraphy style and also technically the most complicated. It has strict rules for graphical shape of the letters and for combination of the letters, words, and composition of the whole calligraphy piece as a whole. Even the second popular Persian calligraphy style i.e. “Cursive Nas’taliq” or “Shekasteh Nas’taliq” noticeably follows the same rules as Nas’taliq, with more flexibility of course.

Read more of this article in Curves of beauty: Persian calligraphy

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Story behind Olympic dancing man's seal of approval

BEIJING, July 7 -- One year after Beijing won the rights to host the Games, organizers launched a contest in a bid to find a special logo for China's largest public event.

As an art form, seal cutting imposes exact demands upon scholar-artists, in terms of calligraphy, layout and line. Seasoned advertising man, Guo Chunning, beat 1,300 other professionals with his entry - a powerful seal, which drew from history and reflected China's modern progress.

Seal cutting is a time-honored art among the literati and dates back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC). The Chinese character for a seal is composed of two words: zhua, which means hand, and jie, a tally issued by a ruler to generals or envoys as credentials.

The designer chiseled the English word "Beijing", and the Arabic figures "2008" together in archaic calligraphy styles.

Originally, dukes and princes handed a tally to their trustees to perform a difficult mission. The seal stood for conferment, responsibility and obligation. As a symbol for trust and promise, a seal paves the way for clear communication and authenticity of the message. Chinese believe winning the 2008 bid represented both the trust of the Olympic family as well as a promise made on behalf of the 1.3 billion Chinese people.

On July 13, 2001, the Beijing delegation solemnly proclaimed in Moscow that China would go all out to make the 2008 Olympic Games a phenomenal success. The unique seal serves as a testimony that "for the world's good faith in us, we shall requite with success and honor".

A Chinese seal is always red, which also symbolizes the burning Olympic flame. For millenniums, red has been the color for supreme happiness, widely used for grand or blissful occasions. This auspicious color was chosen for the national flag when the People's Republic of China was established in 1949. A seal was also part of a Chinese scholar's standard paraphernalia.

One's work must be rich in flavor, grand and lofty in taste, effortless in craftsmanship, and most important of all, the work should in itself be rich with meaning. The 2008 emblem is an amazing enigma for connoisseurs and veterans. For one thing, it looks like the Chinese character of wen, short for wenhua, which means culture or civilization. As one of the world's ancient civilizations, China contributes a rich legacy of sports.

Qigong and martial arts are but two of the most well-known varieties. Modern archery, shooting and skiing have evidently evolved from ancient Chinese recreation and sports.

The Olympic seal also resembles the Chinese character jing, which means Beijing, a city that has thousands of years of history. From a different angle, one can also see a girl dancing with a red silk ribbon. She is full of youthful vigor and feminine grace and is welcoming guests and athletes from all over the world. Another reading reveals a human figure sprinting to the finish line. He is celebrating Olympic athleticism and is the flower of life in full blossom. He is growing tall in the bright Olympic sun. The designer finally chisels Arabic figures "2008" together in archaic calligraphy styles.

(Source: China Daily)