Visual Arts

Kaz Tanahashi: Master Calligraphist Visits Houston Zen Center

At age 23, while living in his native Japan, Kazuaki "Kaz" Tanahashi wanted to improve his handwriting. Fifty-five years later, Kaz is anchoring an ancient art that, at present, is living strong in some ways and dying in others.

Tanahashi is a famous calligraphist who reinterprets classical Chinese masterpieces and translates spiritual masterpieces -- for example, Shōbōgenzō by 13th-century Japanese Sōtō Zen Master Eihei Dōgen.

The Berkeley, California-based artist and peace activist also travels all over the world, hooking up folks with "art of fancy lettering" knowledge.

This weekend, the Houston Zen Center gets its turn. On Friday, Kaz will demonstrate and discuss his practice while Sunday features a workshop.

How can calligraphy be full of life and not-life at the same time? It's a trend thing, says Kaz.

"In Japan, calligraphy has kind of lost its function as a daily writing tool. It has been replaced by pens and pencils. But people are really interested in the old-time art of calligraphy. As an art, I think calligraphy is more practiced than it has ever been." Kaz says that Western calligraphy is becoming quite popular, with hubs in the San Francisco area, New York and Chicago.

Asked if he's still learning, Kaz responds, "Oh yes. Of course. I learn something new every time....we can always learn from great ancient masterpieces."

At 7 p.m. Friday, August 3, Tanahashi will perform a live calligraphy demonstration and offer works for sale. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, August 5, Kaz will teach a basic calligraphy workshop.

Additionally, Kaz will present two lectures about Masters Ryokan and Eihei Dogen Zenji, scheduled to take place at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, August 4, and 7 p.m. Tuesday, August 7, respectively.

All events take place at the Houston Zen Center, 1605 Heights Boulevard. For more information, go to the Houston Zen Center website.

In the meantime, check out what Kaz can do in these images.

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Steve Jansen is a contributing writer for the Houston Press.
Contact: Steve Jansen