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XPL The Book of Five Rings

This Xplore Virtual Program features five 2-hour sessions, each providing an interactive experience with Japanese traditional calligraphy (Shodo), with thematic focuses in of the five modules, on each of the five chapters of legendary Japanese swordsman Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings, written in 1643. This book is one of the tomes of Bushido, and features five core chapters: earth, water, fire, wind, and void, with corresponding traditional Japanese philosophy that has been applied over the years to myriad contexts, from martial arts to business to personal life. The five books refer to the notion that, just as there are different elements of battle, there are different physical elements of life as described by Buddhism, Shinto, and other Eastern religions. The course will delve into the philosophical topics of the book while engaging in a Shodo (traditional Japanese calligraphic) practice of relevant kanji characters, applying Musashi’s philosophy to the art form.

Each of the sessions will focus on one of the five chapters from The Book of Five Rings and center traditional calligraphic practice around the concepts of the book, focusing on specific kanji that pertain to Musashi’s philosophes of Bushido. The metaphors of the 17th-century warrior will be applied to modern-day life. For optimal participation in the course, students will be required to prepare a basic calligraphic set, (sets range from elaborate and expensive to quite cheap and functional, and are available and easily found online) and a copy of the Book of Five Rings. Each corresponding chapter should be read prior to the class meeting on that chapter. Students will emerge from the course with a greater understanding of both the practice of Shodo and of the famed Bushido (The Way of the Samurai) philosophy, unique to Japanese history, and will have enhanced their subject-specific vocabulary as well as cultivate a better understanding of the conceptual design of kanji characters through the course.