What Is The Difference Between Shodo and Japanese or East Asian Calligraphy?

shodo vs japanese calligraphy

Sometimes we get asked; “What is the difference between Shodo and Japanese / East Asian Calligraphy?”

The answer is simple, there is no difference, it’s just two ways of referring to the same thing.

“Shodo” is the transliteration for the Japanese word “書道”, simply the way of indicating the sound of the word in roman letters for English speakers.

Directly translated “shodo” means something like “the way of writing” or “the principle of writing”, and obviously it refers to the Japanese branch of East Asian calligraphy.

Japanese Calligraphy or East Asian Calligraphy is simply the proper English translation of the word “書道”.

All branches East Asian calligraphy all originate from Chinese Calligraphy.

And as such, Japanese, Korean and even Vietnamese calligraphers mostly use Chinese characters as the objects for their artwork.

But the Art has evolved a lot outside of China, as well as within, over the last millennia, which has led to it being known as East Asian calligraphy in most of the western world.

For students just beginning to learn calligraphy, it can be confusing to deal with all these different terms and branches, but the underlying principles are the same despite branch.

You can for example look up Youtube videos of different East Asian calligraphers at work, and then you will see the similarity in their technique and their art.

The brushes, the grip, the motives, your tools and techniques remain largely the same.

So you don’t have to fluster yourself too much if you used to have a Japanese teacher, but now you can only find someone who is Chinese/Korean/Vietnamese.

Skill in East Asian calligraphy are based upon the same principles.

Patience, diligence & practice.

If you apply yourself to the art, you will get better, as simple as that.

If you are in Tokyo and want to take a calligraphy class while in Japan, you can check out our main page for availability and more information about our class.


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