• Maximum $150.00 – The retreat cost is $75. If you're unable to pay this amount, please offer what you can. If you would like to make an additional donation, it would be appreciated.

Date & Time Details: 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

Location: Zen Center of New York City

Address: 500 State Street Brooklyn, NY 11217



Ink, Brush, Paper: An Introduction to Kanji

with William Kando Johnston

January 19, 2019

Many of us are intrigued by Chinese characters, or kanji in Japanese, and feel drawn to their fluid lines and striking beauty, as well as their richness of meaning. Whether we’ve appreciated the dynamic calligraphy of ancient masters, or simply wondered about these characters as we encounter them in our Buddhist practice, for most of us, kanji remain elusive and mysterious. Learning to write characters with a calligraphy brush is a wonderful way to get to know kanji, and so deepen our appreciation of this ancient Zen art.

By using brush calligraphy as a base, this workshop will help provide a basic understanding of some of the common kanji found in Zen practice. Beginning with some of the simple characters that appear frequently, we will examine not only the brushwork but also the structure of kanji, their evolution over time, and some examples of their use in Buddhism, especially by some of the great calligraphers such as Dōgen, Ikkyu, and Hakuin. There are three common styles of calligraphy—formal, semi-cursive, and cursive—and we will learn how to write all of these for a number of kanji. In the afternoon, we will also explore zengo, the expressions used in tearoom scrolls.

It has been said that calligraphy is all about becoming a certain movement, to be repeated ad infinitum, yet each time fresh and unique. With this in mind, we will practice letting our bodies and minds harmonize with ink, brush, and paper, expressing creatively within this classical form and discovering the natural joy and serenity of calligraphy practice.

A tea retreat will be happening at the same time as this kanji retreat. In the afternoon, participants in this calligraphy retreat are invited to join the tea ceremony program, if they choose. And those in the tea ceremony retreat are invited to join the calligraphy program.


We strive to keep our retreat prices low and offer these programs on a sliding scale. It’s important that the dharma is available to everyone. Thank you for your continued support.

No deposit is necessary to register. You can pay the full balance at the door by cash, check or credit card.


William Kando Johnston
William Kando Johnston started his formal practice of calligraphy while a graduate student in Japan in 1978. Since then, he has continued practicing calligraphy, most recently studying under Kaz Tanahashi. He is professor of Japanese history at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT, but currently is the E.O. Reischauer Visiting Professor at Harvard University. He has been practicing Zen for over thirty years, and became an MRO student in 2001.
Learn more about William Kando Johnston