“The technique of creating empty space in Chinese calligraphy is very similar to the philosophy of Dan-sha-ri.” —— The Inkless

17 May 2018

The Inkless is a young, contemporary calligraphy artist who had made her fame on social media. Many may know that she left her career in marketing to join the world of calligraphy, but few may be aware that she is more of an artist than a calligrapher, engaging in the creation of art revolving around Chinese characters. The Inkless recently shared a post on social media in which she wrote Dan, Sha, Ri separately and had them framed on a wall. The post received a lot of attention online. “I inscribed these words after reading the book Dan Sha Ri. The interesting thing is, I wrote the words at different times, but they are surprisingly harmonious together, each echoing with the others.” The Inkless explains that the technique of creating empty space in Chinese calligraphy is very similar to the philosophy of Dan-sha-ri.

“Finding oneself is what a lot of people struggle to achieve in their lives, and the book of Dan-sha-ri shows you how to make the first step towards that goal by getting rid of possessions.”


It’s surprising to Packy (a.k.a The Inkless) that the social media post of Dan, Sha, Ri received such attention online, “Some even use it as their profile pictures.” The post on social media in which she wrote Dan, Sha, Ri separately and had them framed on a wall is the personification of zen, “I wrote those words at different times, but they are surprisingly harmonious together, each echoing with the others. I don’t really care for materialism, I don’t have the urge to buy things all the time, but I can't resist the charm of old objects. I like the stories they carry.” And one day before she knew it, she found herself buying all these vintage writing brushes and ink slabs. “I was hoping to learn how to deal with all my vintage items when I read the book Dan Sha Ri, but I realised Dan-sha-ri is not about throwing things away, but in fact finding oneself.” Packy thinks this is exactly what modern people need. Finding oneself is what a lot of people struggle to achieve in their lives, and this book shows you how to make the first step towards that goal by getting rid of possessions.

Packy left her previous job in marketing when she was 29, and dived head over heels into the world of calligraphy — a passion she always has ever since she was little — and gained her fame not long after on social media. To Packy, quitting her job with no plan was a way to declutter her life — rather than a physical space — and it is a step towards separating from my old self and turning to a new chapter. “The word 'Dan' in Dan-sha-ri doesn’t necessarily mean 'refuse', it carries the meaning of starting something new as well; while 'Sha' means 'letting go'. Many people might hold on to a stable job, a stable income, but to me, letting go is actually a driving force, pushing me to go further. 'Ri' is 'separation', to break down innate values. Taking calligraphy as an example, it is a rather traditional art form and many people would consider that what I do is a departure from the tradition. But to me, the word Ri means holding on to traditional values that are still relevant and letting go of those that are not. Dan-sha-ri is an attitude; it applies in many different ways to different stages of life.”

The technique of creating empty space in Chinese calligraphy, to Packy, is very similar to the philosophy of Dan-sha-ri. “I learnt calligraphy from grandma when I was young. She told me if we are too greedy, adding too many things to a space would only drown out the subject.” And Packy thinks the same logic applies to life and thinking too, “We are constantly bombarded by information every single day, what we think and who we are sometimes get washed out by all these externalities. Let it be Dan-sha-ri, or empty space, we have to remind ourselves constantly that “we” are the centre of our lives, not something external.” Packy smiles and says Dan-sha-ri rings true to skincare too, “I think the way to practise Dan-Sha-ri in skincare is to study the active ingredients in the product as well as the company’s background before purchase. Have faith in yourself and your skin.”