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Letter to Bochong

Letter to Bochong

Mi Fu (1051-1108), Song dynasty

Album leaf, ink on paper, 27.8 x 39.8 cm

Mi Fu had the style name Yuanzhang and the sobriquets Mi'nan gong, Haiyue waishi, and Xiangyang manshi; he changed his name to Fu in 1091. Gifted at poetry and prose, he excelled at painting and calligraphy, his running and cursive scripts absorbing the virtues of ancient styles and giving his brushwork a handsome and unconstrained manner.

This work, the twelfth leaf from the album "Ink Treasures of the Four Song Masters," was originally entitled "Letter to Elder Bo," which probably referred to "Bochong." Zhao Bochong, style name Shu'ang, was a member of the Song imperial clan and excelled at painting horses. This letter features centered brushwork, the twists and turns strong and the tip sharp and exposed for a strong and upright manner.

Essay on Self-Perseverance

Essay on Self-Perseverance

Shen Du (1357-1434), Ming dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 104.4 x 29.9 cm

Shen Du, a native of Huating (modern Shanghai), entered the Hanlin Academy in the Yongle era (1403-1424) based on his talent in calligraphy. His lofty skill and elegant forms in calligraphy was admired by the Yongle Emperor.

This work, done at the age of seventy by Chinese reckoning, is an essay on self-perseverance, advising others on the virtues of diligence for oneself as well as for past and future generations. Shen Du's use of refined standard script along with vertical marking lines give the feeling of precision along with some unrestraint. For example, the exposure of the brush tip when being lifted from the paper created elongated flicks. This gives the characters a sense of airiness that lightens and enlivens the more solemn nature of the contents.

Seven-Character Couplet in Seal Script

Seven-Character Couplet in Seal Script

Wu Changshi (1844-1927), Qing dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 132 x 33.4

"Stone drum script" is writing that was discovered engraved on ten drum-like stones at Fengxiang in Shanxi from the Eastern Zhou dynasty, the contents recording a hunting trip of the Qin ruler. The character shapes are powerful yet belong to large seal script, already revealing a connection with small seal script of the Qin period.

Wu Changshi (original name Jun; sobriquets Foulu, Kutie) was a famous late Qing dynasty seal carver, painter, and calligrapher. A native of Anji in Zhejiang, he was most studied in stone drum script, in later years innovating upon antiquity to create a new style. This couplet is a compilation of characters from stone drum script. The brush force is mature and powerful with great archaism.

Clerical Script

Clerical Script

Yu Yue (1821-1906), Qing dynasty
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 134 x 32 cm

Yu Yue (style name Yunfu, sobriquet Quyuan jushi), a native of Deqing in Zhejiang, became a Presented Scholar in 1850 and served as a Compiler. Learned and gifted at poetry and prose, he is the author of Yu's Collected Writings. Yu also excelled in calligraphy, using the brush methods of seal and clerical script in regular script to form a style of his own.

This work of calligraphy was done with a centered brush, the characters upright and the methods careful with the elongated horizontal and diagonal strokes clearly indicated. The lines also rise and fall with a rich and rhythmic feeling, exhibiting an elegantly untrammeled harmony in the strong and steady style. This work was donated to the National Palace Museum by Mr. Tsai Chen-nan.

Cursive Script

Cursive Script

Yu Yu-jen (1879-1964), Republican period

Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 103.3 x 33.3 cm

Yu Yu-jen, from Sanyuan in Shaanxi, joined the revolutionary Tongmenghui organization in the late Qing dynasty and later served the Republic from the 1930s as Director of the Control Yuan, excelling at calligraphy as well as prose and poetry. Yu's early calligraphy, rooted in the Northern Stele style, is grand and powerful. He also studied ancient wooden slips for a unique manner. His brushwork later becoming rounder, and he promoted "standard cursive."

In this work donated to the National Palace Museum by Mr. Wang Hsin-heng, the spirited brush movement is not too quick or too slow. The rounded strokes and rich ink reveal little angularity. With few lifting or stopping traces of the brush when turning, it has a plain yet archaic style with seal script features. Yu's unique style is a new development on antiquity.

Authentic Work of Semi-Cursive Script

Authentic Work of Semi-Cursive Script

Xianyu Shu (1257-1302), Yuan dynasty

Album leaf, ink on paper, 31 x 18.5 cm

Xianyu Shu (style name Boji, sobriquet Kunxue min), a native of Yuyang (today part of Beijing), excelled at poetry, literature, music, and calligraphy. Also an art connoisseur, he was an important local official and appointed Archivist in the Court of Imperial Sacrifices in 1302, the year he died. In semi-regular script, Xianyu Shu achieved the majestic manner of the Jin and Tang dynasties. In cursive script, he studied the style of Huaisu. Zhao Mengfu once praised Xianyu's cursive script as far beyond him, no matter how hard he tried.

The brush force here is bold and strong yet rounded as it turns all around. Not a single stroke is lacking or misplaced, featuring the powerful style then found in northern China. On display in this exhibition are the first three leaves of poetry by Du Fu and Chu Guangxi of the Tang dynasty.

Tile End Rubbing for “Eternal Blessings”

Tile End Rubbing for "Eternal Blessings"

Anonymous, Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE)

Album leaf, ink on paper, 20.7 x 21.3 cm

The character for "tile" in Chinese refers to a circular piece of pottery used to cover the end of a tile roof, the Chinese for "end" meaning "bottom." Tile ends first appeared in the Western Zhou dynasty. Both circular and semi-circular in shape, they were a basic element of ancient architecture. Attached to the end of a tile roof, they prevented the tiles from sliding off and concealed the space between the rows of tiles. Protecting the eaves, they also kept rainwater from leaking inside. Not only functional, they also had a decorative place in architecture. In addition to plain ones, they were also adorned with patterns, animals, and writing. This work donated to the National Palace Museum by Mr. Yeh Kung-chao features the auspicious phrase for "eternal blessings" in the form of seal script commonly seen in Han dynasty seals.

Eulogy on the Chronicle of Ni Kuan

Eulogy on the Chronicle of Ni Kuan

Chu Suiliang (596-658), Tang dynasty

Handscroll, ink on paper, 24.6 x 170.1 cm

Chu Suiliang (style name Dengshan), a native of Qiantang, Zhejiang, excelled at calligraphy. He early studied the style of Yu Shinan but later traced back to Wang Xizhi to form his own style. Chu's characters are sparse and thin yet strong and tempered for a pure and remote effect of desolate looseness with clerical script elements. Greatly admired by the Tang emperors Taizong and Gaozong, he was ennobled as Duke of Henan Prefecture.

The brushwork here is supple and full of simplicity, critics over the ages regarding it as a late effort by Chu Suiliang. Recent scholars refer to Chu's taboo characters here as different from those used in the Tang dynasty and the brushwork as differing from that in Chu's other works. More similar to Ouyang Xun's style, they believe this is a copy by a Song dynasty calligrapher.