Shang Dynasty Oracle Bone InscriptionsThe oldest examples of what one could call "calligraphy" are the inscriptions of the oracle bones of the Shang Dynasty (jiaguwen 甲骨文). These inscriptions came up during the 12th century BC and represent a fully developed script or writing system. Older types of writing already appear on Neolithic pottery but are mere signs or symbols than a writing. The oracle inscriptions report the course, answer and result of a divining ceremony held by the king or a shaman. The text was written with brush and ink on the surface of a flat bone like the plastron of tortoises or turtles or a shoulder blade of cows (sometimes we find also other bones like skull bones or leg bones), then incised with a knife and reddened with cinnabar to make the character easier readable. As an example for oracle bone inscription, see a divining about a hunt. Today, ink rubbings are made of the bones to make them readable.
Shang and Zhou Bronze Vessel InscriptionsAlmost contemporarily to the oracle bone inscriptions, the Shang culture developed inscriptions on casted bronze ritual vessels, the so-called jinwen 金文. There are two ways to incise or engrave a writing on a bronze vessel. The text can either be engraved in the ready-casted vessel, or a reverse version (mirrored) can be engraved into the mold before casting. In the last case, the characters are protruding. But most vessels bear inscriptions that are incised into the surface of the vessel. Making ink rubbings the inscriptions, the characters are white and the surface black. See a rubbing and an inscription the famous tripod of Duke Mao (Mao Gong Ding 毛公鼎). Inscriptions on metal are called ming 銘, a term that is later used for every kind of inscription, also for stone inscription texts.
Other important examples for Zhou Dynasty 周 bronze vessel inscriptions are:
- Qin Gong Dui 秦公敦 (see a dui vessel)
- San Shi Pan 散氏盤 (see a pan vessel)
- Yu Ding 盂鼎, also called Da Yu Ding 大盂鼎 (see a ding vessel)
- Song Hu 頌壺 (see a hu vessel)
- Qi Hou Lei 齊侯罍 (see a lei vessel)
- Chen Man Fu 陳曼簠 (see a fu vessel)
- Wang Sun Zhong 王孫鍾 and Zhongzhou Zhong 宗周鍾 (see a zhong bell)
The Oldest Stone Inscriptions: The Ten Stone DrumsThe Ten Stone Drums (Shi Shigu 十石鼓) were discovered during the Tang Dynasty. Many characters of the inscriptions are not longer discernable. Originally counting some 730 characters, and only half of it can be read today. But preserved Song Dynasty rubbings give a quite clear picture of the engraved poems that celebrate the hunting expeditions of a duke of the state of Qin in 768 BC. See a picture of the third Stone Drum with a reconstruction of the text, and a Qing Dynasty rubbing of one of the stones, giving an idea of the Large Seal Script style (dazhuan 大篆 or zhouwen 籀文).
Qin Dynasty: Development of Chancellary ScriptWhen the First Emperor unified China, there was a lot of work to standardize all items "under Heaven", like measures and weights, and to build up a well-working administration. Armies of scribes and clerks had to copy the edicts and imperial decretes of the centralized Qin state, most of their work was written on bamboo slips, using the Chancellary Script style (lishu 隸書) instead of the -meanwhile- standardized Small Seal Script (xiaozhuan 小篆 or Qin zhuan 秦篆). More than a thousand bamboo slips (jian 簡) the Warring States Period were discrovered in 1976 in the tombs at Shuihudi 睡虎地 near Yunmeng 雲夢/Hubei, showing a mixture of the old Seal Script and the time saving Chancellary Script. Standard weights issued by the government were inscribed with imperial edicts. The First Emperor regularly toured through his vast empire to observe the work of his governors and magistrates. During these imperial inspection tours, he had inscribed texts on commemorative stone tablets (bei 碑). Two of these tablets written in Small Seal Script are preserved:
- one at Mount Taishan 泰山/Shandong (today, only nine characters are readable)
- one at the Langye Terrace 瑯玡臺 (also written 瑯琊 or 琅邪)/Shandong (only some twenty characters are still readable)
- some of the six Qin Dynasty stone inscriptions are preserved as copies, like the inscription of the Yishan Mountain 嶧山 near Zouxian/Shandong, the inscription of Kuaiji/Zhejiang 會稽, and of Jieshi 碣石.
|The Han Dynasty - although making a severe political break to the Qin Empire - perpetuated the standardization measures begun by the Qin emperor. Han Dynasty scribes refined the Chancellary Script to an elegant and expressive style called bafen 八分 ("diverting style"). It can be found on thousands of bamboo slips or wood sticks with bureaucratic inscriptions found in the military colonies of modern Gansu and Xinjiang provinces, and as book-rolls in tombs. A dozen of Han Dynasty stone tablets (bei 碑) or stone pillars or arches (que 闕) and/or rubbings made of the inscriptions are preserved, most of them discovered and studied by Song Dynasty scholars. The most important stone inscriptions are:|
The titles of the stone tablets are generally written in Seal Script, the text in Chancellary Script.
- Yuan An Bei (92 AD); written in Small Seal Script
- Taishi Que 太始闕 (Songshan/Henan; 118 AD)
- Jingjun Bei 景君碑 (143 AD; honoring governor Jing of Yizhou District)
- Yi Ying Bei 乙瑛碑 (153 AD), a stele for the chancellor of the kingdom of Lu, erected in the Confucius temple
- Liqi Bei 裡器碑 (156 AD; honoring Han Che for making new sacrificial and ceremonial articles for a Confucian temple)
- Xian Yuhuan Bei 鮮于璜碑 (165 AD), commemorating a governor of Yanmen
- Xia Cheng Bei 夏承碑 (about 170 AD; being a first example for the development of Running Script xingshu 行書 style)
- Kong Biao Bei 孔彪碑 (171 AD; imporant for the unusual art of large space between the characters)
- Cao Quan Bei 曹全碑 (185 AD)
- Zhang Qian Bei 張遷碑 (186 AD) near Dongping/Shandong, a stele for a governor
- other stelae are: Jingjun Bei 景君碑(143 AD), Huashan Bei 華山碑 (161 AD), Heng Fang Bei 衡方碑 (168 AD), Shi Chen Bei 史晨碑 (169 AD), Qiao Min Bei 譙敏碑 (187 AD).
Natural stones, rocks or cliffs were used for inscriptions reporting public work, and the irregularity of the unpolished surface, the calligrapher not being able to use a grid, brings an unexpected natural beauty in these works called moya 摩崖:
The Han emperor Han Wudi 漢武帝 adopted Confucianism as state doctrine because Confucian scholars were well-educated in matters of government conduct and imperial ritual affairs. During the reign motto Xiping (172-177 AD), under the guidance of Cai Yong 蔡雍, six Confucian classical writings were engraved in 46 stone tablets, known as the Xiping Stone Classics (Xiping Shi Jing 熹平石經). These inscriptions are especially noteworthy because long before the invention of printing, China had developed a way of providing definitive, standardized characters ("letters") that were copied by thousands of scholars throughout the empire.
- The commemorative inscription at Baoxie Dao 褒斜道摩崖 (66 AD; reporting the construction of a mountainous road)
- The inscription (ming 銘) of Shimen 石門 with an ode (song 頌) praising the construction of a road (148 AD), together with the Yang Huai Biaoji Moya 楊淮表記摩崖 (173 AD)
- The engraved ode praising governor Li Xie 李翕, at Xixia 西狹/Gansu, written by Chou Jing 仇靖 (171 AD), the first namely known calligrapher; the inscription is called Xixia Song 西狹頌 or Huian Xi Biao 惠安西表; an inscription nearby is the Puge Song 埔閣頌.
Other examples of Han Dynasty calligraphy are the seals of the imperial household and governors in all districts of the empire, roof-tile stoppers, tiles, bricks, and household utensils.
Of great importance for the history of literature (Zhanguoce, Laozi) are the writings on silk material (boshu 帛書), found in a tomb called Mawangdui 馬王堆/Hunan.
The first examples of the extremely quick-written "grass script" caoshu 草書 are Western Han times, called jijiu zhang 急就章 "hastening regular script". We still know the writings of Shi You 史游, Emperor Zhangdi 漢章帝, Zhang Zhi 張芝 (Zhiru Tie 知汝帖, Zhibai Tie 芝白帖); and Cui Yuan 崔瑗 (Xiannü Tie 賢女帖). See an example for the jijiu zhang writing style, along with the regular script, the Three Kingdoms period, traded by Huang Xiang 皇象.
|The Three Kingdoms period 三國 carried on the traditions that had developed during the Han Dynasty. The most famous calligrapher, Zhong Yao 鍾繇 (d. 230 AD), developed the kaishu 楷書 style the Chancellary Script. This style is also called "modern chancellary script" (jin li 今隸), "correct script" (zhengshu 正書) or "real script" (zhenshu 真書).|
There are only few examples of Three Kingdom inscriptions, but only as later copies:
- Zhong Yao's calligraphy is preserved in the shape of engravings that were created after copies made by Wang Xizhi. These are three throne memorials presented by Zhong Yao, called Xuanshi Biao 宣示表, Jian Jizhi Biao 薦季直表, and Liming Biao 力命表, all written in zhengshu and therewith the earliest examples of this style. The engravings were made during the Ming and Qing Dynasties by Hua Zhongfu 華中甫 the Zhenshangzhai Studio 貞賞齋 resp. by the Sanxitang Hall.
- Da Jiangjun Cao Zhen Bei 大將軍曹真碑(235 AD; the oldest example for the style of reverting the first stroke of a character, a technique called cangtou 藏頭 or huwei 護尾)
- San Ti Shijing 三體詩經, the Book of Songs in three different writing styles (245 AD), the Zhengshi Stone Classics 正始石經
- Tianfa Shenchan Bei 天發神懺碑 (276 AD), a very edgy calligraphy style probably used by Huang Xiang 皇象.
|Our source for calligraphy of the period of Jin Dynasty 晉 and the time of north-south division relies on a hardwood slab (tie 帖) by Wang Zhu 王著 (d. ab. 1000), called Chunhuage Tie 淳化閣帖. Some of the calligraphies incised are of doubtful origin, but it nevertheless provides us with important information about the development of Jin and Southern and Northern Dynasties 南北朝 calligraphy.|
While in south China, the erection of stone tablets was forbidden in south China, we find many tomb stones, epitaphs and tablets in the north where a non-Chinese warrior elite ruled. The few extant stone tablet of the south are:
- A famous writer and calligrapher of the Jin Dynasty was Lu Ji 陸機 (d. 303). There is only a copy of a letter by Lu Ji surviving that once belonged to the collection of the Song emperor and artist Song Huizong 宋徽宗, called Jin Lu Ji Pingfu Tie 晉陸機平復帖.
- Correspondence between private persons became more and more important among scholars of the period of Jin Dynasty and the following national division. An example for this kind of regular monthly correspondence is a letter by Su Jing 素靖 (d. 303), called Yueyi Tie 月儀帖.
- Doubtless the most important calligrapher of this period, and probably of the whole Chinese art history, is Wang Xizhi 王羲之 (d. 365?), the "calligrapher-sage" (shusheng 書聖). The patronate Tang emperorTang Taizong 唐太宗 (Li Shimin 李世民) admired Wang's calligraphy and collected all available handwritings and copies of him. Unfortunately, no original writing has come down to us. All versions we possess now are Tang time tracing copies. The most famous work of Wang Xizhi is the Preface to the (Collected Poems during a Spring Party) at the Orchid Pavilion (Lanting Xu 蘭亭序), written in 353. Although many calligraphers forged their own versions of the Preface, there exist three reliable copies of the original: A rubbing of the Dingwu Stele (定武本蘭亭序), the engraving made after a calligraphy of Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢; and two copies the hand of Chu Suiliang 褚遂良. The most important other works of Wang Xizhi are the letter of the Ping'an Tie 平安帖; the note of the Fengjü Tie 奉橘帖; and (doubtful) Leyi Lun 樂毅論, Huangting Jing 黃庭經; Kuai Xue Shi Qing Tie 快雪時晴帖; Kong Shizhong Tie 孔侍中帖; Sangluan Tie 喪亂帖; Shiqi Tie 十七帖.
Wang Xizhi contributed to the development of a standard version for all writing styles, kaishu 楷書, xingshu 行書, and the extreme running "grass" cript caoshu 草書.
- Wang Xizhi's seventh son Wang Xianzhi 王獻之 (d. 386) helped further developing the "grass" script by connecting not only the strokes of one character, but also one character with the following. There are texts where even seven characters are written in one single movement of the brush, a method called yibi shu 一筆書. The only surviving original work of Wang Xianzhi is the Yatouwan Tie 鴨頭丸帖, others are Luo Shen Fu Shisan Hang 洛神賦十三行; Shieryue Tie 十二月帖 and Zhongqiu Tie 中秋帖.
- Wang Xun 王洵 (d.401) is a distant relative of Wang Xizhi and also belongs to the "Three Rarities" (San Xi 三希; Wang Xizhi, Wang Xianzhi, and Wang Xun) whose works the Qianlong Emperor 乾龍皇帝 collected. His most famous work is the grass script calligraphy Bo Yuan Tie 伯遠帖.
- A descendant of Wang Xizhi in the seventh generation is the monk Zhiyong 智永 (late 6th cent.). He created the grass script Thousand Character Essay Zhencao Qianziwen 真草千字文, the "Thousand characters text" in two writing styles.
Under the rule of the Northern Wei Dynasty in the north and Emperor Liang Wudi 梁武帝 in the south, Buddhism gained a strong foothold in the whole Chinese society. During the short-lived Northern Qi Dynasty 北齊, the Diamond Sutra was engraved in the rocks of Mount Taishan 泰山/Shandong with large, two feet square characters (Taishan Jingang Jing 泰山金剛經). Another Buddhist engraving is the ode Kuang Zhe Ke Jing Song 匡喆刻經頌 near Dexian 德縣/Shandong.
- Cuan Baozi Bei 爨寶子碑 (405 AD) Yunnan written in a very old, traditional and edgy type of zhenshu style, modeled after the Bei of Madame Sun (272 AD).
- Cuan Longyan Bei 爨龍顏碑 (458 AD), also Yunnan Province, an example of typical zhengshu style of the Han and Three Kingdoms period.
- Yihe Ming 瘞鶴銘 (514 AD), a rock engraving calligraphy on the Jiaoshan Island 焦山/Jiangsu said to be written by Tao Hongjing, a very good example of zhengshu 正書 style. The columns of the inscription do not orientate to a square grid, but are written freely and hence do sway a straight line.
- Since commemorative stones were forbidden in the south, some families had commemorative texts engraved on tiles that were placed in the tombs.
But of much more importance are the steles and epitaphs (tomb stones) in north China. Most of the original stones are long lost or heavily damaged, but we possess good ink rubbings by Song Dynasty scholars. The most important and interesting inscriptions are:
In the field of theory, Xie He 謝赫 (end 5th cent.) wrote a book analyzing old paintings, called Guhuapin lu 古畫品錄. Yao Zui 姚最 (end 6th cent.) wrote the sequel to the Guhuapin, simply called Xu Guhuapin 續古畫品 "Sequel to the Old Paintings".
- Guangwu Jiangjun Bei 廣武將軍碑 (368 AD), a stele for a Northern Qi general, engraved with unusual characters, probably by a calligrapher of Non-Chinese origin.
- Songyue Lingmiao Bei 嵩岳靈廟碑 (456 AD), a stele in a temple on Mount Songshan/Henan written by the Daoist priest Kou Qianzhi, using a style that is freed the typical patterns, like a Taoist would do, freeing himself the world.
- Shiping Gong Zao Xiang Ji 始平公造像記 (498 AD), an engraving the Longshan Grottoes.
- Shimen Ming 石門銘 (509 AD), a rock engraving by Wang Yuan 王遠.
- Shixing Zhongwu Wang Bei 始興忠武王碑 (552 AD), a stele commemorating a Prince, written by Bei Yiyuan 貝義淵 during the Southern Qi. This exemplarious kaishu 楷書 writing deeply influenced later calligraphers.
- Zheng Wengong Xi Bei 鄭文公羲碑 (ab. 500 AD), a stele written for a prefect of Yanzhou/Shandong; the calligraphy was made by the Confucian scholar Zheng Daozhao 鄭道昭 (d. 525?).
- Zhang Menglong Bei 張猛龍碑 (522 AD), a stele with an extraordinarily brushstoke technique changing character to character.
- Gen Fashi Bei 根法師碑 (523 AD), a memorial for the monk Gen in the Mamingsi 馬鳴寺Monastery/Shandong, with a brush technique that adds full pressure before a stroke turning.
- Longcangsi Bei 龍藏寺碑 (586 AD), is one of the three surviving examples for Sui Dynasty 隋 stone tablets, showing a good blending of northern and southern
- There exist dozens of steles and epitaphs that have been unearthed since the 18th century, like the Zhang (Xuan) Mo Nü Muzhi 張玄黑女墓志 (531), Cui Jingyong Muzhi 崔敬邕墓志 (517); the epitaph inscriptions (muzhi ming 墓誌銘) of Yuan Zhen 元楨, Yuan Jian 元簡, Yuan Hun 元暉, Yuan Chongye 元崇業, Yuan Huan 元煥, Yuan Luoshen 元洛神, Yuan Tianmu 元天穆, Hou Gang 侯剛, Gou Jing 茍景, Erzhu Xi 爾朱襲 (as can be seen the name, clearly not a Chinese, but of Xianbei 鮮卑 origin), Li Ting 李挺, Lu Xumiduo 陸須蜜多, Zhuang Huan 壯歡, Wang Xing zhi Fufu 王興之夫婦, Liu Tao 劉韜, Helian Ziyue 赫連子悅, Erzhu Chang 爾朱敞, Duan Wei 段威, Meng Tida 孟題達, Zhang Jian 張儉; the steles of the Hunfusi Monastery 暉福寺, Yao Boduo 姚伯多, Yizi Liushiren 邑子六十人 with a picture of Laozi 老子, the Wenquan Ode 溫泉頌, the Huayue Ode 華嶽頌 written by Zhao Wenyuan 趙文淵, etc. All these inscriptions represent the fruits and interpretations of the regular standard type of zhenshu 真書 calligraphy style.
Tang and Five Dynasties CalligraphyThe calligraphers of Tang Dynasty absorbed the styles and brushstoke techniques of the Southern and Northern Dynasties and went on to establish their own personal styles. Under the patronage of Emperor Tang Taizong - who was a calligrapher himself -, three great men of letters created their uncomparable works:
In the field of theory, Zhang Yanyuan 張彥遠 wrote two important books about painting and calligraphy down to his own Fashu Yaolu 法書要錄 "Compendium of Calligraphy", and Lidai Minghua Ji 歷代名畫記 "Famous Paintings through History".
- Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢 (d. 618) is probably the most famous calligrapher of the Tang Dynasty. He learned especially the style of the Jin Dynasty calligrapher Su Jing 素靖. Ouyang is known for his own kaishu style that can be admired on several stone tablets or their rubbings. The most important is the Hadusi Bei 化度寺碑, others are the Huangfu Dan Bei 皇甫誕碑, the Yu Gong Gong Bei 虞恭公碑 the inscription Jiuchenggong Lichuan Ming 九成宮醴泉銘 632, and the tablets Zhang Han Si Lu Tie 張翰思鱸帖 and Meng Dian Tie 夢奠帖.
- Yu Shinan 虞世南 (d. 638) is a scholar of the monk Zhiyong 智永, but although he was esteemed very highly by Emperor Tang Taizong, his works do not belong to the most famous in the world of calligraphy. A very good example for his kaishu style is the stone tablet of the Confucius Temple Kongzimiao Tang Bei 孔子廟堂碑, other examples are the tomb stone inscription Runan Gongzhu Muzhi 汝南公主墓志, and the calligraphy Poxielun Tie 破邪論帖.
- Chu Suiliang 褚遂良 (d. 658) is the third great calligrapher who worked under the patronage of Emperor Tang Taizong. His writing style - especially when he came to age - is very frail and sensitive but nontheless very famous. Chu showed great interest in the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi 王羲之 and preserved many works of this calligrapher-sage. Among Chu's scholars are Xue Ji 薛稷 (d. 713; main work: Xinxing Chanshi Bei 信行禪師碑) and Xue Yao 薛曜. His most important works are: Yique Fokan Ji 伊闕佛龕記 (an inscription in a Buddhist grotto), the inscriptions in the Wild Goose Pagoda 大雁塔 in Xi'an, (Yanta) Da Tang Sanzang Shengjiao Xu 雁塔大唐三藏聖教序 and the record Shengjiao Xu Ji 聖教序記, the stele Meng Fashi Bei 孟法師碑, and the two preserved calligraphies (moji 墨跡) of the Yinfu Jing 陰符經.and Ni Kuan Zan 倪寬贊.
- Of the works of Emperor Tang Taizong 唐太宗 (personal name Li Shimin 李世民) was a great admirer of Wang Xizhi and had made copies of Wang's Langting Xu. The emperor's own calligraphies can be found on two steles: Jinci Ming 晉祠銘, and Wenquan Ming 溫泉銘; it is very remarkable because the emperor combined xingshu and kaishu style in a single work. Emperor Tang Xuanzong 唐玄宗 (Jiling Song 鶺鴒頌 and Shitai Xiaosheng 石臺孝聖 and Empress Wu Zetian 武則天 (Shengxian Taizi Bei 升仙太子碑) were also admirers of art and calligraphers themselves.
- Sun Guoting 孫過庭 (d. 703) is the great master of "grass script" (caoshu) and has been copied by thousands of calligraphy students all over east Asia. He even wrote a book about calligraphy styles, called Shupu Xu 書譜序 "Preface to the Calligraphy Manual" (revised by Jiang Kui 姜夔).
- Li Yong 李邕 (d.747) was so famous during his time that he was a regular writer for commemorative stone tablets. His blending style of kaishu and xingshu escapes the typical classicist style of the Tang calligraphers. Examples for Li Yong's style are Lushansi Bei 麓山寺碑, Li Sixun Bei 李思訓碑, and Li Beihai Yunhui Bei 李北海雲麾碑.
- Zhang Xu 張旭 (d. after 750) is known as the "crazy" Zhang who wrote in an extraordinary wild cursive script (caoshu). He might have been the teacher of Huaisu. Many calligraphies with an eccentric style of caoshu are attributed to Zhang Xu. But Zhang also wrote steles in kaishu style, like the Langguan Shizhu Ji 郎官石拄記; examples for Zhang's calligraphy are the boards Duteng Tie 肚痛帖, Gushi Si Tie 古詩四貼, Zhongnian Tie 終年帖, Shiwuri Tie 十五日帖.
- The "Drunken Monk" Huaisu 懷素 (d. about 800) is famous for his cursive style. Some surviving examples are his autobiography (Zixu Tie 自敘帖), the Lü Gong Tie 律公帖, the Lunshu Tie 論書帖, the Shengmu Tie 聖母帖, the Kusun Tie 苦筍帖 and the Qianziwen Essay 千字文 in small cursive script (xiaocao 小草).
- Yan Zhenqing 顏真卿 (d. 785, Duke of Lu 魯公) - actually a general - has been one of the model calligraphers of Tang Dynasty. Examples for his bold and forceful style are Wenshu Banruo Jing Bei 文殊般若經碑, Magu Xiantan Ji 麻姑仙壇記, Ji Zhi Jiming Wen 祭侄季明文 (or Ji Zhi Wengao 祭侄文稿), Zhongxing Song Bei 中興頌碑, Pei Jiangjun Shi Tie 裴將軍詩帖, Jingzuowei Gao 爭座位稿 (or Lunzuo Tie 論座帖 or Xing Guo Puye Shu 與郭仆射書), Zi Shu Gao Shen 自書告身, Dongfang Shuo Huaxiang Zan 東方朔畫像贊, the steles Duobaota Ganying Bei 多寶塔感應碑, Yan Shi Jia Miao Bei 顏氏家廟碑 and Yan Qin Li Bei 顏勤禮碑.
- Liu Gongquan 柳公權 (d. 865) is a less known calligrapher of late Tang period who engaged in clerical inscriptions, like the Diamond Sutra 金剛經 in the Dunhuang Caves, Shen Ce Jun Bei 神策軍碑, and the Xuanmita Bei 玄秘塔碑 inscription in the "Stone Stelae Forest" (Shilin 碑林) at the old capital Chang'an (modern Xi'an/Shaanxi).
- Zhong Shaojing 鐘紹京 lived during the end of 7th century and created the Fulun Wang Tie 轉輪王經.
- Last, but not least, we find calligraphies attributed to the famous poet Li Bai 李白 (d. 762) who created the Shangyangtai Tie 上陽台帖.
- The two Five Dynasties 五代 calligraphers are Yang Ningshi 楊凝式 (d.954; wrote Jiuhua Tie 韭花帖 and Shenxian Qiju Fa Tie 神仙起居法帖) and Yan Xiu 彥修 (Later Liang).
- Except the works of these famous calligraphers, there exist many anonymous inscriptions of steles (bei 碑) and tombstones (muzhi 墓誌) and handwritings by less known masters. A few examples: The stelae Li Min Bei 李愍碑 by Pei Shouzhen 裴守真; the tombstone inscriptions of Guo Jing 郭敬, Wang Gan 王感, Wei Dong 韋洞 and Wei Xuan 韋頊, Yang Zhiyi 楊執一, Feng Junheng 馮君衡, Zhang Hu 張怙, Zhao Xun Prince of Hui 會王趙纁, the Chan Masters Dazhi 大智禪師 and Huijian 慧堅 (written by Sun Zangqi 孫藏器), the Monks Bukong 不空 (written by Xu Hao 徐浩 who also created the patent for Zhu Juchuan, Shu Zhu Juchuan Gaoshen 書朱巨川告身) and Daoyin 道因 (written by Ouyang Tong 歐陽通), Zhang Qushe 張去奢, Li Shou 李壽, Qu Yuanshou 屈元壽, Gao Yuangui 高元珪 (written by Gu Jieshe 顧誡奢), the tomb inscription San Fen Ji 三墳記 by Li Yangbing 李陽冰 who also wrote Qiangua Ming 謙卦銘; and the stelae with inscriptions and pictures of animals, servant maids and eunuchs of the tomb of Princess Yongtai 永泰公主; and the stele reporting the advent of Nestorianism in China, Da Qin Jingjiao Liuxing Zhongguo Bei 大秦景教流行中國碑 (written by Lü Xiuyan 呂秀巖). Further, we have the Kaicheng Stone Classics 開成石經 835 AD and inscriptions Buddhist pagodas like the Wild Goose Pagoda (carved upon a relief showing the Buddha and his disciples), Master Xuanzang's pagoda 玄奘塔, and the Jigong Pagoda 基公塔.
|With the upcoming of interest in archeology and relics of old times, Song time scholars tried to preserve calligraphies of the great masters the Jin Dynasty on. Many opera had only survived as copies, and the surviving objects were severally endangered by decay and the "teeth of time". Therefore, emperor Song Taizong 宋太宗 ordered the imperial collection of calligraphies engraved on hardwood boards (tie 帖) to conserve the venerated calligraphies. These boards were stored in the Chunhuage Pavillion 淳化閣. Some scholars criticized quality and authenticity of these collected works and relied more on the engravings on stone tablets (bei 碑), making rubbings these (beituo 碑拓), or on original handwritings (moji 墨跡 or moshu 墨書).|
For the first time in Chinese history, scholars drew their attention to the Shang and Zhou Dynasty bronze vessels and the inscription on them, written in Large Seal Script. The beauty of the old script was more fascinating for Song Dynasty calligraphers then the formal, cold and classic Tang style. The result was a romantic style that was rich of inventions and new creations. The most famous Song Dynasty calligraphers are:
- Su Shi 蘇軾 or Su Dongpo 蘇東坡 (d. 1101) was a multi-talent of his time. He was scholar, minister, poet, essayist, calligrapher. Su Shi's calligraphy is mainly influenced by the Northern Dynasties masters, as well as Li Yong and Yan Zhenqing 顏真卿. Su's calligraphy style is compared with a seagull flying in a clear, blue sky. His main works of art are: Huangzhou Hanshi Shi Tie 黃州寒食詩帖, written in xingshu style with characters of different size - a new performance against the equally sized traditional style; Luochi Miao Bei 羅池廟碑; Chibi Fu 赤壁賦, a rhapsody describing the Battle at the Red Cliff; Dongting Chunse Fu 洞庭春色賦; Fengleting Ji (Bei) 丰樂亭記碑, an essay by Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修, written in kaishu style.
- Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅 (d. 1105, also called Huang Shangu 黃山谷) discovered the art of space in calligraphy and the significance of the reinforcement of the brush while it is in motion. His most important works are: Huaqi Xunren Tie 花氣熏人帖; Li Bai Yijiuyou Shi Juan 李白憶舊游詩卷; Jing Fubo Shen Ci 經伏波神祠; Zhang Datong Juan 張大同卷; Songfengge Shi Juan 松風閣詩卷; Pang Jushi Shi Juan 龐居士詩卷; Lian Bo Lin Xiangru Zhuan Juan 亷頗藺相如傳卷; Zhu Shangzuo Tie 諸上座貼; Dong Po Ma Juan Ba 東坡馬劵跋; Fa Yuan Wen 發願文; Huangzhou Hanshi Shi Juan Ba 黃州寒食詩卷跋, a colophon of Su Shi's work.
- Mi Fei 米芾 (d. 1107, also called Mi Fu 米黻 or Mi Yuanzhang 米元章) said that at all great masters of the past had imagined a calligraphic work as a whole before committing it to paper, rather than planning each character. He criticized the chancellary or clerical script (lishu) of the Qin-Han Dynasties that forced each character into a square box, making smaller character bigger and complicated characters smaller and unreadable. His main art works are: Shu Qiyan Shi 書七言詩; Zhi Bo Chong Chidu 致伯充尺牘; Shu Su Tie 蜀素帖; Zijin Yan Tie 紫金硯帖; Lunshu Tie 論書帖; Duojinglou Shi Ce 多景樓詩冊; Shanhu Tie 珊瑚帖; Yanshan Ming Tie 研山銘帖; Xiang Taihou Mian Ci 向太后挽詞; Han Guang Tie 寒光帖; San Tie Juan 三帖卷 (comprising Shu Mei Tie 叔晦帖，Li Taishi Tie 李太師帖，and Zhang Jiming Tie 張季明帖). Sailing on the Wu river
- Emperor Song Huizong 宋徽宗 (d. 1135, personal name Zhao Ji 趙佶) was not only a patron of artists, but also a great calligrapher himself who created the "Slender Gold" style (shoujin shu 瘦金書). Works of Song Huizong are Caoshu Tuanshan 草書團扇, a round fan; Mudan Shi Ce 牡丹詩冊; Daguansheng Zuo Bei 大觀聖作碑; but his most famous calligraphy is a traverse scroll called Qiuhua Shi Juan 秋花詩卷, beginning with the words Nong Fang 穠芳.
- Emperor Song Gaozong 宋高宗 (d. 1162, personal name Zhao Gou 趙構) used the style of Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅 and Wang Xizhi 王羲之.
- Jiang Kui 姜夔 (d. 1235?), actually a great poet, collected works of Wang Xizhi and commented Sun Guoting's book Shupu.
- Wu Ju 吳琚 (13th cent.) is a small calligrapher whose works were often attributed to Mi Fei. One of his calligraphies (a poem beginning with the words Qiao Ban 橋畔) is the oldest example of a hanging scroll.
- Less famous is the calligrapher Cai Xiang 蔡襄 (d. 1067) who took the styles of several old masters as his model style. His most important works are: Qiuzhi Tie 求紙帖, Cai Xiang Chidu 蔡襄尺牘, Jiaofan Tie 郊燔帖, Meng Hui Tie 蒙惠帖, and Tao Sheng Tie 陶生帖.
- Other less known Song calligraphers are Zhao Buzhi 晁補之, Qin Guan 秦觀, Zhang Lei 張耒, Hu Anguo 胡安國, Mi Youren 米友仁 (d. 1151), Mi Fei's son, and many other scholars that are known as poets, writers or politicians, like Su Che 蘇轍, Lu You 陸游, Yue Fei 岳飛, Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修, Sima Guang 司馬光, Zhu Xi 朱熹, and so on.
|The short-lived Yuan Dynasty 元 was a period when art was a channel for the expression of all abilites of scholars that were of Chinese origin. Politically suppressed and unable to demonstrate for their rights by literature works, the Chinese engaged in technical work, handicraft and calligraphy.|
Jin Dynasty 金 calligraphers are rare, but we know two famous representants in the sphere of calligraphy, first the Chinese Wang Tingyun 王庭筠 (d. 1202), and the politician Yelü Chucai 耶律楚才 (d. 1244).
- One of the most outstanding persons in the sphere of art is Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (d. 1322), a descendant of the house of Song emperors.
- Other important Chinese calligraphers were Yu Ji 虞集 (d.1348), Ke Jiusi 柯九思 (d. 1340), Deng Wenyuan 鄧文原 (d.1329); and the four hermit painters Huang Gongwang 黃公望, Ni Zan 倪瓚 (d.1374), Wang Meng 王蒙, and Wu Zhen 吳鎮.
- A non-Chinese artist was Xianyu Shu 鮮于樞 (d. 1302), the only prominent Mongol artist was Kangli Naonao 康里夒夒 (Kuikui 夔夔 or Kui 巙; d.1345).
- Less famous Yuan period calligraphers are Zhang Yu 張雨 (d.1348), Yang Weizhen 楊維楨 (d.1370), Mo Chang 莫昌, Li Qi 李祁, Zhang Kui 張奎.
|While Song time calligraphers made investigations into the oldest extant writings of Chinese and extensively used seal script and chancellary script (zhuanshu and lishu) for their works of art, Ming time literati and artitsts relied only on the hardwood boards (tie) as models for their artworks, and not, like the Song artists, Zhou bronze vessels and the old commemorative stone tablets. Nonetheless, Ming emperors esteemed the old calligraphers like Wang Xizhi 王羲之 and Wang Xianzhi 王獻之 and imitated their hands. Late Ming masters did not only use paper for their experiments, but white damask with floral designs woven into the material that created special effects by absorbing the ink differently.|
A handful of scholar-artists did not make use of the meanwhile poor copied of hardwood boards or rubbings of these. And only these scholars were esteemed by later generations:
- Song Ke 宋克 (d.1368) revived the style of Su Jing 素靖 with the bafen 八分 type of zhang-cao 章草 cursive script.
- Li Dongyang 李東陽 (d.1516) returned to the style of the Tang calligrapher Yan Zhenqing.
- Wu Kuan 吳寬 (d.1504) esteemed Su Shi's 蘇軾 hand.
- Shen Zhou 沈周 (d.1509), a poet and painter, stood in the tradition of Wang Xizhi and Yan Zhenqing 顏真卿 and blended the style of these two famous people. But he also imitated Huang Tingjian's 黃庭堅 hand.
- Zhu Yunming 祝允明 (d. 1526)
- Tang Yin 唐寅 (d. 1523)
- Wang Chong 王寵 (d. 1533)
- Wen Zhengming 文征明 (Wen Bi; d. 1559), a scholar of Shen Zhou, created a lively xingshu style in the tradition of Huang Tingjian. His kaishu is written in very small size within a square grid format.
- Dong Qichang 董其昌 (d.1636) admired the old masters, but he saw that copying the hardwood boards would not give a vivid and natural style to a calligraphy. Instead, he overcame the severe limitations of the exact copies and tried to grasp and interprete the spirit of the old master. Dong is famous for his handling of ink, either wet and dry, or light and dark. He became one of the masters that would be exemplarious for Qing Dynasty calligraphers.
- Zhang Ruitu 張瑞圖 (d. ca. 1640) has created a style for his own with strong, angular, iron-like strokes that create a third-dimensional impression.
- Wang Duo 王鐸 (d. 1652) concentrated on the effects of different ink tones in combination of brush enforcements and tempo.
- Less famous Ming calligraphers are Wang Fu 王紱 (d.1416), Fang Xiaoru 方孝儒 (d.1402), Yang Jisheng 楊繼盛 (d.1555), the philosopher Wang Shouren 王守仁 (Wang Yangming 王陽明; d. 1528), Huang Daozhou 黃道周 (d.1646), Ni Yuanlu 倪元璐 (d.1644), Chang Xiang 昌襄 (d.1693), Gu Yanwu 顧炎武 (d. 1682), Wang Fengyuan 王逢元.
|The deterioration of the hardwood slabs and their copies was heavy so at the end of 17th century that Qing calligraphers went back to study the older votive stelae or commemorative tablets that was much better preserved. At the same time, scholars began to study again the inscriptions on the Zhou bronze vessels and the stone tablets of Han Dynasty. This movement was called "Bronze-Stone-Scholarship" (jinshixue 金石學). The result of their studies is that all writing styles were in use during the Qing Dynasty, seal script (zhuanshu 篆書), chancellary script (lishu 隸書), regular script (kaishu 楷書 or zhengshu 正書), running script (xingshu 行書) and full cursive script (caoshu 草書) with all their variants.|
- Fu Shan 傅山 (d.1684)
- Zhu Da 朱耷 (called Badashan Ren; d.1705)
- Shi Tao 石濤 (d. ca. 1718)
- Zheng Banqiao 鄭板橋 (d.1765)
- Jin Nong 金農 (Jin Dongxin 金冬心; d. 1764)
- Wang Wenzhi 王文治 (d. 1802)
- Liu Yong 劉墉 (Liu Shian 劉石庵; d. 1804), a follower of Dong Qichang with the idea that the further one gets the exact likeness of the model one is copying, the higher is the accomplishement. The spirit of a model is much more important than the likeliness of a copy. Liu Yong dramatically varies the pressure of his brush, following the inspirations of Sun Guoting.
- Deng Shiru 鄧石如 (Deng Yan 鄧琰; d. 1805) is renowned for his use of zhuanshu and lishu, modeled after Han time inscriptions.
- Yi Bingshou 伊秉綬 (d. 1815), his best known style is the lishu of the Han Stone Classics. His xing-cao is written with the brush holding exactly perpendicularly without moving in any direction.
- Chen Hongshou 陳鴻壽 (d. 1822)
- Zhao Zhiqian 趙之謙 (d.1844), a follower of Deng Shiru. He was painter, calligrapher and seal engraver.
- Bao Shichen 包世臣 (d. 1855)
- He Shaoji 何紹基 (d. 1873) studied Han commemorative stone tablets and made hundreds of copies of these inscriptions, but copied filled with the idea of Dong Qichang that the spirit of a calligraphy counts, not the likeliness. He also studied Yan Zhenqing's calligraphies. His later works, written in xingshu and caoshu, look like works of abstract art, giving the characters remarkable and unexpected shapes.
- Wu Xizai 吳熙載 (Wu Rangzhi 吳讓之; d. 1870)
- Wu Dacheng 吳大澂 (d. 1902) was an important collector of bronze vessels and studies bronze inscriptions, especially the large seal script (dazhuan 大篆), but also the bafen type of Han Dynasty chancellary script.
- Kang Youwei 康有為 (d. 1927) , a man better known as unsuccessful reformer and philosopher, studies the calligraphies of all periods. His couplets (duilian 對聯) are among the best of his time.
- Less known Qing calligraphers are Wang Jian 王鑑 (d. 1677), Wang Shimin 王時敏 (d. 1680), Cha Shibiao 查士標 (d. 1698), Shen Quan 沈荃 (d. 1684), Wu Li 吳歷 (d. 1718), Wang Hui 王翬 (d. 1717), Yun Shouping 惲壽平 (d. 1690), Gao Jian 高簡 (d. 1707), Wang Yuanqi 王原祁 (d. 1715), He Zhuo 何焯 (d. 1722), Hua Yan 華嵒 (d. 1761), Huang Shen 黃慎 (d. 1768), Zheng Xie 鄭爕 (d.1785), Li Shan 李鱓 (begin 18th cent.), Wang Tubing 王圖炳 (begin 18th cent.), Liang Tongshu 梁同書 (d. 1815), Bi Yuan 畢沅 (d.1797), Luo Pin 羅聘 (d. 1799), Weng Fangwang 翁方網 (d.1818), Qian Feng 錢灃 (Qian Nanyuan 錢南園; d. 1795), Huang Yi 黃易 (d. 1802), Xi Gang 奚岡 (d. 1803), Guo Lin 郭麐 (d.1831), Mo Youzhi 莫友芝 (d. 1871), Zhang Lianqing 張廉卿 (d.1894),Yang Yisun 楊沂孫 (d. 1881), Qi Baishi 齊白石 (d. 1957), Wang Danlin 王丹林.
|While calligraphers of every period had used the older masters as their models, some discoveries at the end of 19th century brought up new graphic material. The first event was the discovery of the Shang Dynasty 商 oracle bones by Wang Xiang 王襄, Wang Yirong 王懿榮 and Liu E 劉鄂. Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉 and Wang Guowei 王國維 were the first to study the oldest writings of Chinese history. The second discovery was made by the French expeditioner Aurel Stein (1901) and the Svedish adventurer Sven Hedin (1928) in Chinese Turkestan and Dunhuang, where they found thousands of wooden and bamboo slips the Han Dynasty. The most important interpreters of these new models were:|
- Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉 (d.1940) extensively studied and decipered the oracle bone inscriptions.
- Wu Changshi 吳昌碩 (d.1927), a famous seal engraver, painter and calligrapher who studied the Ten Stone Drums.
- Li Ruiqing 李瑞清 (Qing Daoren 清道人 "Hermit Qing";d. 1920) concentrated on bronze inscriptions and the Han Dynasty stone tablets.
- Liang Qichao 梁啟超 (d.1929), a disciple of Kang Youwei, was expert in the Northern Dynasties style of kaishu.
- Tan Yankai 譚延闓 (d.1930) and his brother Tan Zekai 譚澤闓 collected Qing calligraphies, but they also made many rubbings of Northern Dynasty stone tablets.
- Yu Youren 于右任 (d.1964), a journalist, collected rubbings of stone inscriptions and wanted to introduce the cursive caoshu style as common written style. His idea was influenced by the Japanese alphabet Hiragana that was created caoshu characters.
- We do not have to forget the great chairman Mao Zedong 毛澤東 (d.1976) who is rated the best calligrapher of his time. His most famous calligraphy is the title of the People's Daily Renmin Ribao 人民日報. Other party celebrities in vain tried to copy the hand of Mao.
- Other modern calligraphers are Shen Zengzhi 沈曾植 (d. 1922), Zheng Xiaoxu 鄭孝胥 (d. 1938), Zeng Xi 曾熙 (Zeng Nongran 曾農髯; d. 1930), Li Jian 李健 (d. ca. 1950), Ye Xiaan 葉遐庵 (Ye Gongchuo 葉恭綽; d. 1969), Shen Yinmo 沈尹默 (d. 1971), Zhang Daqian 張大千 (d.1983), Zeng Kerui 曾克瑞.