chapter  8
24 Pages

Calligraphy, Poetry and Zen

Japan's indebtedness to China is most patent in her use of the Chinese script, those strangely attractive ideograms, partly pictorial and partly phonetically used, which have added so much to the aesthetic charm of Far Eastern civilisation, while acting as a powerful brake on its intellectual development. When the Japanese became acquainted with the kanji (Chinese script) at the latest in the fifth century A.D., they had no script of their own invention, except, perhaps, rune-like marks of doubtful origin and age. They have treasured the precious and Pandorean gift with the fervour of an acolyte; considering it inappropriate to destroy a single sheet of paper on which ideograms have been drawn. To this day an inordinate amount of time is devoted to the learning of several thousands of these characters, thus preventing the child from applying its mind to less mechanical tasks and furthering a certain tendency to care for accuracy of detail, meticulously copied, and for seductive elegance in overcoming the hardness of rigid lines by swift and wilful strokes of the brush, which leave the reader something to admire and, still more, to puzzle over.