選單圖示選單圖示

National Palace Museum

Flowing with Grace: The Story of Seal-Script Calligraphy

  • Dates: 2020-01-01~2020-03-25
  • Gallery: (Northern Branch) Exhibition Area I 204,206

Calligraphy is a unique form of art in the cultural history of the world. Not only used as writing for communication in daily life, calligraphy in China has also long since developed into a comprehensive and independent system of theory and practice. The course of evolution in Chinese calligraphy and its aesthetic criteria has been a subject of attention for centuries. This exhibition presents a special selection of seal script to introduce one particular style in this art form, its changes that have taken place over time, and the different perspectives for its appreciation.

The forms of seal script that emerged in China over the years are many, including ancient writings on oracle bones, bronzes, pottery, tallies, slips and silk, seal faces, coinage, and in stone engravings. Roughly speaking, this style of Chinese calligraphy can be divided in large and small seal script, with writing that appeared before the Qin dynasty unifying the writing system into the third century BCE generally referred to as large seal script. However, clerical script, which had developed and matured between the Qin and Han dynasties, would become the written language of common use. This led to the gradual decline of seal script as the mainstream form of writing, though it was still used for special decorative purposes. Later, starting in the Northern and Southern Dynasties period, running and regular scripts would become the main forms of written communication. And not until much later, in the Qing dynasty, when ancient writing increasingly came to light from excavations, and combined with the influence of pragmatic trends in learning, did calligraphers begin re-investigating the brush methods of seal script in earnest, leading to new developments in this form of Chinese calligraphy.

Even though seal script long ago departed from everyday use in China, it still survives and flourishes today on the basis of its exceptional artistic qualities. The brush methods of seal script may appear simple and the variations of its curving lines limited, but the arrangements and structures of such characters are quite diverse and beautiful. Ranging from squarish to flat as well as irregular forms, seal script remains suitable for use in many mediums. A calligraphy theorist of the Tang dynasty, Sun Guoting (ca. 647-ca. 690), once wrote, "Seal script upholds curving and flowing," identifying two of the obvious and important defining criteria for appreciating it. For seal script to attain a realm of curvilinear beauty and graceful flowing, strokes not only need to have fluidity and body, methods of spatial arrangement must also be accommodated, and only then will the unique aesthetic qualities of seal script be manifest.

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