Song dynasty

Dingwu Rubbing of the Lanting

Ting-wu Rubbing of  the Lan-t'ing Preface

  • Handscroll, ink rubbing 
  • 24.9 x 66.9 cm

After the Mongols crushed the last remnants of the Song dynasty, they acquired rather than destroyed the Southern Song imperial collection of painting and calligraphy. This was most likely done in order to display the fruits of their victory and that they had inherited legitimate rule over China. With the establishment of their rule, Mongols gradually assimilated with native Chinese. Based on political, social, and cultural needs, the Mongols actively studied Chinese culture and began to heed closer attention to the collection of paintings, calligraphy, and other cultural objects. The transmission of this rubbing reflects this historical and cultural phenomenon of the Mongols.

In 1329, the Kuizhang Pavilion was formally established and Yu Ji  (1272-1348), who had taken part in the planning, assumed responsibility as the Attendant Academician of Calligraphy. At the time, this rubbing belonged to the family collection of Ke Jiusi (1290-1343). After Emperor Wenzong had ordered it be submitted for imperial inspection, he personally impressed the imperial seal "Tianlizhibao" (Treasure of the Tianli Era) and returned it to Ke Jiusi. Yu Ji was also ordered by the emperor to record this event at the end of this scroll, which remains part of the transmission that can still be traced. The imperial seal used for appreciating works of painting and calligraphy in the Kuizhang Pavilion, such as the aforementioned "Tianlizhibao" and "Kuizhanggebao" (Treasure of the Kuizhang Pavilion) were based on Yu Ji's seal script. In fact, much of the calligraphy associated with the Kuizhang Pavilion was associated with him. After Ke Jiusi submitted this scroll, he was promoted to Doctor of Connoisseurship in Calligraphy at the Kuizhang Pavilion, and many of the works of painting and calligraphy in the imperial collection passed before his eyes. The transmission of this scroll bears witness to the importance of appreciating and collecting painting and calligraphy in the Chinese tradition. With the assistance of native Chinese and other scholars, the line of traditional Chinese culture was restored and even promoted under the Mongols.

This important rubbing of a now-lost prized work by the Jin calligrapher Wang Xizhi includes numerous seals, including Bian Yongyu , Xu Jian , Bi Long , and Menglou (Wang Wenzhi ).

Yu Ji

Yu Ji (1272-1348) accepted a Confucian studies-based post teaching position in the capital in 1302. Thereafter, he served the courts of seven emperors from Chengzong to Shundi. He served up to the post of Kuizhang and Jixian Academician and was awarded the posthumous title of Wenjing. Many of Emperor Wenzong's decrees, as well as the organization of the Kuizhang Pavilion, were planned and composed by Yu Ji. He was gifted in standard, running, cursive, and seal script calligraphy, and both his conduct and poetry were praised by many.

Bian Yongyu

Bian Yongyu (1645-1712) often went to the studios of such famous contemporary collectors as Sun Chengze, Liang Qingbiao, and Cao Rong to view paintings and listen to their discussions on art. Although his own collection was not as great, he diligently observed and recorded what he saw, thereby improving his skills at connoisseurship. His "Shigutangshuhuahuikao" traces works from antiquity, combining previous records and his own observations, making it a major synthesis of art catalogues.

Xu Jian

Xu Jian (1713-1798) as a youth did not perform well in the civil service examinations, so he instead devoted himself to poetry, painting, and calligraphy. In his middle years, as a Tribute Student, he went to the Department of Rites for examination and later served as a staff member for Bi Yuan and Lu Yao. He excelled at calligraphy, especially clerical script and carving seals. His landscape paintings follow the manner of the Qing orthodox master Wang Yuanci.

Bi Long

Bi Long (1733-1797) was the younger brother of the scholar Bi Yuan (1730-1797) and son-in-law of the painter Zhao Rong. Bi Long was a book collector and had a particular penchant for painting and calligraphy, which he stopped at no price to acquire. His collection of ancient masterpieces did not pale in comparison to that of his brother. He also was gifted at poetry, was a connoisseur of painting and calligraphy, and a painter of landscape and bambood in monochrome ink.

Wang Wenzhi

Wang Wenzhi (1730-1802) was a calligrapher of the Qing dynasty. In the Qianlong era, he served as Student-in-waiting at the Hanlin Academy and Prefect of Yunnan. He later taught in his hometown at schools in Zhejiang and Zhenjiang. He was gifted in poetry and calligraphy and occasionally did paintings, especially those of plum blossoms in monochrome ink. One of his writings records the works in his collection and those that he had the opportunity to view. He also documented other aspects of contemporary paintings and artists.