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Calligraphy

Poetry on the Wan-chieh Hall
Yang Wei-chen (1296-1370), Yüan dynasty (1279-1368)
Album leaf, ink on paper, 27.0 x 57.1 cm
Third leaf from “Album of Yüan Calligraphy”

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Yang Wei-chen, a native of Kuei-chi, went by a variety of names, including the style name Lien-fu and sobriquet Tung-wei-tzu. Later, because he liked to play an iron flute, he also took the sobriquet Taoist of the Iron Flute (T’ieh-ti tao-jen). He received his Presented Scholar civil service degree at the age of 31 and went on to serve as an official in T’ien-t’ai, also taking part in the compilation and editing of the official histories of the Liao, Chin, and Sung dynasties. Honest and straightforward by nature, he was slandered by other officials and eventually relieved of office. He traveled throughout the Kiangsu and Sungkiang area, but was still concerned with matters of the country, writing an essay on orthodoxy, for which he was rewarded with resumption of office. However, the later years of the dynasty became increasingly chaotic, and in later years he moved to Sungkiang. He was also gifted at prose and especially poetry, which were considered outstanding. His writing stood out so much at the time that it came to be known as the “Iron Flute Style”. He was also equally talented in painting and calligraphy.

The wild cursive script of Yang Wei-chen mirrors in many ways the troubled times of the late Yuan dynasty, this work being calligraphed at the age of 65. Yang at the time had resided in Sungkiang for several years, and he often met with friends and disciples in his studio to drink wine and taste tea as they experimented with new brushes and fine ink in doing painting and calligraphy. The poetry here was written in the imperial ink of the K’uei-chang Pavilion at court that had been bestowed upon him, and the ink is especially black and evidently different from ordinary ink. His brushwork is so strong that it seems to penetrate the paper, also dashing about with great flair and maturity.
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