Calligraphy in Japan By Nakamura, Fuyubi
Known as sho [書], shodō [書道], shosha [書写] or shūji [習字] in the twenty-first century, calligraphy holds an ambiguous and complicated status as art in modern Japan. Practiced by high society members and Buddhist monks in earlier periods, calligraphy gained public popularity during the Edo period (1603–1868). However, calligraphy’s status became contentious during the Meiji period (1868–1912), with the introduction of European concepts of art and the emphasis on calligraphy’s practical skill in the newly structured education system. New expressions in calligraphy emerged, not only because of European influences, but also due to the discovery of Chinese calligraphy classics from the Six Dynasties period (third to sixth centuries). During the Taisho period (1912–1926), calligraphers participated in international and public exhibitions, which led to the establishment of an independent role for professional calligraphers in the Shōwa period (1926–1989). The passing of a style from master to disciple became common among calligraphers. While calligraphy remains a social practice as much as an artistic one, geijutsu-sho, or artistic calligraphy, was established in the early 20th century.