Calligraphy allowed the ancient Chinese to use kanji characters in many artistic forms. The art also was adopted in Japan. Alex Kerr, an Oxford/Yale educated American author and artist, has become a master of this art. His book Lost Japan is a classic written by someone with over 30 years of experience of living and studying in Japan. Alex Kerr is fluent in spoken and written Chinese and Japanese to a level that he is a native speaker. He is the right person to bring the essence of Japanese art, literature and culture to the outside world. One impressive way of accomplishing this task has been through his writing and calligraphy. In Lost Japan, Kerr writes: “Traditionally, calligraphy was the highest of the arts. The T’ang-dynasty emperor Tai-tsung loved the calligraphy of Wang His-chih so much he odered that his copy of Wang His-chih’s ‘Orchid Terrace Preface’ be buried with him in his tomb…Calligraphy held the highest rank because it was believed to capture the soul of the writer. There is an ancient Chinese saying, ‘Calligraphy is a portrait of the heart.’”
Here is an example of Alex Kerr’s calligraphy that I am particularly fond of owning. For other strikingly vivid, playful, creative images have a look at his calligraphy website.