Fo Guang Shan Monastery, Taiwan ©Solange Hando
Isn't this a lovely place to discover the true meaning of calligraphy?
Tucked in lush greenery near Kaoshiung in southern Taiwan, Fo Guang Shan welcomes visitors with its own guesthouse and retreats and courses which include the ancient art of calligraphy.
Whether you opt for short or longer sessions, it's best to book early. The monastery attracts people from across the island and beyond, some just want to look around, others come in search of peace and uplifting vibes.
Concentration, Key to Calligraphy ©Solange Hando
In Fo Guang Shan, there's far more to calligraphy than learning to draw characters. It's a spiritual experience and before entering the calligraphy hall, you will be asked to remove your shoes and lower your voice.
Sit quietly, body relaxed and balanced (that takes some practice) to allow the free flow of energy.
It isn't so much a physical activity but a journey into the soul, a kind of meditation when nothing matters but paper and brush and the page you are invited to copy.
Feel the Vibes, Taiwan ©Solange Hando
Meanwhile in the carefully tended grounds, hundreds of Buddha images glow in the midday sun and somehow you feel the vibes in the silence of this hall, as guided by nun or monk, you learn to breathe deeply, relax and go with the flow, left hand holding the paper down, right hand and wrist guiding the body and tip of the brush.
No need to worry about styles or strokes, just keep your eyes on the spot and forget everything else. Calligraphy isn't about what you do but how you do it, that's the most important lesson of all.
Fo Guang Shan Calligraphy ©Solange Hando
Adopt the right frame of mind and when you take home your carefully rolled up manuscript, it won't just be a souvenir but a lasting reminder of the peace you enjoyed in Fo Guang Shan.
All Taiwanese will tell you: creating characters is only the first step. To achieve a truly spiritual experience, each one must be transformed into a 'beautiful flower' and that can only come from the soul.
Calligraphy Hall in Fo Guang Shan ©Solange Hando
Did you know that in some quarters people shave a baby's hair to make a calligraphy brush? It brings good luck to everyone around.
You won't have to go that far in Fo Guang Shan but relax, respect and when you step out of this golden pagoda hall, you'll feel renewed and refreshed.