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Delight in One Thousand Characters: The Classic Manual of East Asian Calligraphy (Paperback)
A beautifully curated presentation of the Thousand Character Essay, a masterpiece of Chinese calligraphy that has served as the art form's classic manual for over 1,400 years.
Sung to infants as a lullaby, used to teach reading and writing, and employed as library index codes, the Thousand Character Essay is China's most widely used and beloved calligraphy textbook. Composed by the literary giant Zhou Xingsi and handwritten by sixth-century Buddhist monk Zhiyong, this masterful work has endured for centuries as the standard guide for brush writing both in formal and cursive scripts.
Delight in One Thousand Characters brings this sublime body of art-as-text to English-speaking readers through its translation and explanation by calligraphers and artists Kazuaki Tanahashi and Susan O'Leary. Preserving the renowned beauty of monk Zhiyong's only extant handwriting, the book visually depicts the traditional script through extensive imagery, including a full, one-hundred-strip edition of Zhiyong's calligraphy. All images also have corresponding commentary explaining the meaning of each character.
Essays and appendices by Tanahashi and O'Leary detail the fascinating history, geographic range, and aesthetic nuance of the essay and of Zhiyong's rendering--essential material to be familiar with the history, thought, literature, and art of East Asian civilization. For calligraphers, Delight in One Thousand Characters can serve as an advanced primer for practicing both formal and cursive Chinese calligraphy.
About the Author
KAZUAKI TANAHASHI, a Japanese-trained calligrapher, is the pioneer of the genre of "one-stroke painting" as well as the creator of multicolor enso (Zen circles). His brushwork has been shown in solo exhibitions in galleries, museums, and universities all over the world. Tanahashi is the author of over forty books including Painting Peace, Heart of the Brush, and The Heart Sutra.
SUSAN O'LEARY is a graduate of Yale University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is the author of several books, including Breath Taking, a book of poetry on the breath. As part of a team of writers and historians, in 2009 she received the Independent Press Book of the Year Award for best book in education for Wisconsin: Our State, Our Story.
“To all calligraphers of any culture, this book offers the rare opportunity to experience the relation between visual and verbal in Chinese calligraphy. It is an invitation to enter into the depth of an art of gesture, mark-making, and present moment—an art of space and time.”—Monica Dengo, author of Leave Your Mark: The Pleasure of Writing by Hand
“What a rare treasure to have such literary and artistic mastery combined across centuries and placed in one’s hands. Delight in One Thousand Characters is a beautiful, honest book.”—Natalie Goldberg, author of Three Simple Lines: A Writer’s Pilgrimage into the Heart and Homeland of Haiku
“Written in the sixth century by Zhou Xingsi, the Thousand Character Essay (which is indeed exactly one thousand characters long) is both a shorthand compendium of ancient Chinese thought and the source for the standard handbook for writing Chinese characters. Kazuaki Tanahashi’s careful translation of this text (in collaboration with Susan O’Leary) and his presentation of the classic sixth-century calligraphing of it by monk Zhiyong springs from his own lifelong practice of the art of the brush. For many decades he’s produced stunning works of calligraphic art and offered workshops around the world, becoming in the process the leading exponent in the West of what might be called the philosophy of the brush. This volume reproduces the only extant complete copy of Zhiyong’s brushwork, with details about forms and pronunciation in several languages. I am amazed by this book and will use it from now on as my source for writing and appreciating characters, China’s great and enduring gift to the human family.”—Norman Fischer, author of Selected Poems 1980-2013 and When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen
“Shambhala has made a magnificent choice in bringing this text to mainstream focus, and hopefully it will be appreciated on its own terms, as a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.”—Buddhistdoor Global