Heart Sutra App

The Heart Sutra 心經 is an app that allows you to read and write the famous Buddhist Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra.


I designed and coded this app myself in Objective-C as part of a larger art installation within my thesis in Visual Studies.

Writing and copying the sacred texts known as sutras is an old and quite significant aspect of everyday monastic practice for Buddhists in East Asia. The shortest of these sutras, the Heart Sutra, is one of the most famous sutras in the Mahayana Buddhist canon.

This application allows anyone to participate in the act of studying and copying the Heart Sutra on the iPad. Use the app for meditation, recreation, or as the monks do (to gain spiritual merit).


This app was the first application and exploration I had made programming natively with Objective-C. I designed the app to allow users to write characters in traditional Chinese without any prior fluency or familiarity.

At the time of creation, writing resources used primarily static image diagrams, so I borrowed from these patterns to create interactive tutorials for each character in the text. I took all 124 unique characters of the sutra (284 total) and produced character drawings, then assigned coordinates for each stroke and the direction it should be drawn. Some of this was achieved programmatically, but the bulk of the vector graphics were made by hand. While the function of the drawing portion of the app was pretty basic, it also included some logic to ignore extraneous user input while drawing, the ability to undo or redo steps, and more.

Examples of common static stroke diagrams

Thesis Installation

The app was designed to be used as part of a larger art installation, complete with a touch-sensitive brush stylus.


"Skin has become inadequate in interfacing with reality. Technology has become the body's new membrane of existence."

- Nam June Paik

Full installation view.