Emperor’s Shomu’s influence seen in calligraphy style

Torige Tensho no Byobu Folding Screen Panels with Bird Feathers Forming Characters in Tensho (Seal Script) and Kaisho (Block Script)

Torige Tensho no Byobu Folding Screen Panels with Bird Feathers Forming Characters in Tensho (Seal Script) and Kaisho (Block Script)

This panel Torige Tensho no Byobu, part of a six-panel screen) is a typical example of Shosoin treasures. The kanji characters are colorful and fun to look at. The interesting thing is that the Tensho characters (seal script) and Kaisho (block script) appear alternately in a manner never seen in other works.

Of the various calligraphic styles in China, thick but temperate and elegant strokes show the influence of Wang Xizhi, a historically renouwned calligrapher, and others in southern China, which differs from the rigid style of northern China.

The panel was created in Japan since the feathers of indigenous to the country and copper pheasants were used to form the Tensho letters. Emperor Shomu, who influenced calligraphy with his own thick strokes must have ordered a craftsman or a calligrapher to follow his style in the piece.

The writing on the panel is also suitable as the emperor’s motto since it advises rulers not to become dictators.

The Nara period (710-794) was a tumultuous time of intrigue and political disputes, and many people losts their lives from smallpox in this period.

 

Reference: Favorite Treasures of Shosoin “Emperor Shomu’s influence seen in calligraphy style”  Yomiuri Shimbun

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