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Calligraphy

Poetry on the Pao-t'u Spring
Chao Meng-fu (1254-1322), Yüan dynasty (1279-1368)
Handscroll, ink on paper, 33.1 x 83.3 cm

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Chao Meng-fu, style name Tzu-ang and sobriquet Sung-hsueh tao-jen, was a relative of the Sung imperial family and a native of Hu-chou (modern Wu-hsing, Chekiang). After the fall of the Sung, he served the following Yüan dynasty as an official in the Hanlin Academy. He was posthumously ennobled as the Duke of Wei and entitled Wen-min for his services, and he was also one of the most influential painters and calligraphers of his day, his style having a great impact on generations to come.

The Pao-t'u Spring is located outside of the west gate of the old city wall of Tsinan in Shantung province. When Chao Meng-fu was an official in Tsinan, he often traveled to this location. Gifted in all of the lofty art forms of poetry, prose, calligraphy, and painting, he was versed in all contemporary and ancient forms of calligraphy. In his early years, he studied the style of the Sung dynasty emperor Kao-tsung, but later turned to the styles of Wang Hsi-chih and Wang Hsien-chih, in the end studying that of Li Yung. He was the greatest synthesizer of styles in calligraphy since the T’ang dynasty (618-907).

Chao Meng-fu's calligraphy was renowned for its perfect aestheticism. The poetry for this work was done in the twelfth lunar month of 1295 and was done for his friend Chou Mi, like another famous painting in the Museum collection--"Autumn Colors on the Ch'iao and Hua Mountains". Therefore, the calligraphy does not date later than 1304, when Chou Mi died. The calligraphy here is elegant and rounded, exactly in the style for which he was known. This is also a rare surviving example of large regular script by Chao. The handscroll mentions two inscriptions, but only one survives here, indicating that the front of the scroll had been cut off sometime in the past.
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