What is 千字文 – senjimon?

The Thousand Characters Classic (千字文 – senjimon) has been used since the 6th century as a reference model for all Asian calligraphers using Chinese ideograms.
The book was constructed as follows: 1000 unique characters, divided into 250 four-character sentences, using the calligraphic style of the Chinese calligraphy master Wang Xizhi (王羲之) (303-361).
The exercise of this style made its content difficult to understand even at the time it was created.
In fact, every generation that trained with this text had less interest in the meaning of its content than its use as a model to learn the shapes of the characters.
A Japanese calligraphy student, for instance, would understand almost nothing of the text’s meaning because all the references are outdated, Confucian, and not generalizable.

What is the goal of this project?

This project will create a new version of a thousand-character manual for Japanese calligraphers of today and tomorrow: a version which, instead of ignoring the meaning of the ideograms, will saturate the text with beauty, wisdom, and knowledge, while maintaining the objective of a “concentrated” textbook.
The project is thus here adapted for a Japanese audience. The number of kana should be as few as possible. The text should be understandable by a high school student. To meet the size criteria (as small as possible), we will use Chinese sources used in Japanese culture: zengo (禅語), yoji-jukugo (四時 熟語), kanbun (漢文). Notes will be thus needed.

Who had the idea and why?

Stéphane Barbery (www.barbery.net / barbery@gmail.com ) had the idea in the spring of 2016 for his own learning, after finding old 千字文 books in Kyoto, and after finding a French translation in the book ” A thousand characters in Chinese calligraphy ” by Hsiu-Ling CHAN PINONDEL.

History of 千字文 – senjimon

According to tradition, Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty (502-549 Northern and Southern Dynasties period) asked the scholar Zhou Xingsi (周興嗣) (470-521) to compose this text to train the crown princes in calligraphy. (Wikipédia)

How the generator works?

An algorithm automatically generates a text with 1000 unique characters from a number of selectable sources.

How to help? How to participate?

You can join the team in helping to promote the project (to the world of calligraphy, public institutions, including schools) or by helping to improve the database of the original sources. All suggestions are always welcome.


Translation and notes

Reference Books (in french)

Senjimon of Song Huizong emperor

Various calligraphy styles