In the East calligraphy has been consistently practiced as a major aesthetic expression. In China, from the 5th cent. B.C., when it was first used, calligraphy has always been considered equal, or even superior, to painting. Chinese calligraphy began with a simplified seal script, known as "chancery script," in which the width of the strokes varies and the edges and ends are sharp. The perfection of the brush in the 1st cent. A.D. made possible the stylization of chancery script into "regular script," distinguished by its straight strokes of varying width, and clear, sharp corners, and a cursive "running hand."
The Japanese value calligraphy as highly as do the Chinese. They began to practice it only in the 7th cent. A.D., with the introduction of Buddhist manuscripts from China. Kukai, c.800, invented the syllabic script, which was based on Chinese characters.