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Calligraphy

Record on the Pavilion of the Old Drunk
Wen Cheng-ming (1470-1559), Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 53.5 x 28.6 cm

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Wen Cheng-ming (original name Pi and sobriquets T’ing-yün-sheng and Heng-shan chü-shih) was a native of Ch’ang-chou (Soochow) in Kiangsu. His poetry, prose, calligraphy, and painting were all excellent, and he was considered along with Shen Chou, T’ang Yin, and Ch’iu Ying as one of the Four Ming Masters. An influential artist in Soochow art circles during the 16th century in the middle of the Ming dynasty, his early study of calligraphy was centered on styles of the Sung and Yüan, dynasties but later he looked back to the manners of the Chin and T’ang, combining their virtues and excelling in all of them.

Wen delved into the connoisseurship and copying of ancient calligraphy, from which he received inspiration. The calligraphy in this masterful work done in small standard script in 1551 at the age of 81 is like that mentioned by connoisseurs of Wang Hsi-chih’s work--"iron strokes and silver brushwork”. Afterwards is a long colophon by Wen in which he discusses his experiences in calligraphy resulting from his transcription of Ou-yang Hsiu's (1007-1072) "Record on the Pavilion of the Old Drunk". Ou-yang Hsiu in turn had been inspired by an essay by Han Yü. Wen Cheng-ming had hoped that, in his diligent study and pursuit of Wang Hsi-chih's calligraphy, his style would also achieve an air of elegant simplicity both pure and noble.
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