Delve Into the History of Chinese Calligraphy at National Palace Museum’s Latest Exhibition

Unique forms of calligraphy (the art of writing) have been part of the Chinese cultural tradition through the ages. It has long been a subject of interest in Chinese culture to understand the development of calligraphy, as well as the essence of its various forms in different periods. To shed light on the subject, National Palace Museum in Taipei presents a selection of Chinese calligraphy from its collection, and arranges them in chronological order.

When it comes to appreciating calligraphy, Chinese believe the virtue and character of a calligrapher are as important as the artistic value of one’s handwriting. Huang Tingjian (1045-1105), an outstanding Chinese poet and calligrapher, was not only best known for his wild cursive scripts but also widely-acclaimed for his filial piety. He served his mother with deep sincerity and insisted on washing his mother’s bedpan himself every morning despite being a high-ranking government official.

Seven-character Poetry. Huang Tiangjian (1045-1105), Song dynasty.

The exhibition has selected a leaf from the album "Ink Treasures of the Four Song Masters" featuring a seven-character truncated verse by Huang. It reads, "The fragrance of blossoms tempts me to break meditation, even for someone like me past middle years. And of poetic thoughts in spring, they are not unlike a boatman going upstream at Eight-knot Shoals." He uses this as an allusion to his own frustration in composing poetry.

In the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), notions of artistic freedom and liberation from rules in calligraphy gained momentum and became a leading trend in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Among the diverse manners of this period, the elegant freedom of semi-cursive script contrasts dramatically with more conservative manners.

Letter to Abbot Zhongfeng. Guan Daosheng, Yuan dynasty.

Guan Daosheng, a calligrapher from the Yuan dynasty, wrote a letter to the Buddhist abbot Zhongfeng Mingben (1263-1323), expressing her gratitude towards this Buddhist master for his kindness. It was written in a combination of regular, running, and cursive scripts.

Starting in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), scholars increasingly turned to inspiration from the rich resource of ancient works inscribed with seal and clerical script. Influenced by an atmosphere of closely studying these antiquities, Qing scholars became familiar with steles and helped create a trend in calligraphy that complemented the Modelbook school.

Four Scrolls Recording Shen Yi’s Poetry. Lin Zexu (1785-1850), Qing dynasty.

In addition to his government duties as Special Imperial commissioner, Lin Zexu was also renowned for his calligraphy. This work is his transcription of a seven-character poem by Shen Yi (1611-1674). The dots and strokes are orderly while the structure is upright, much in the manner of old masters from the Tang dynasty. Variations in the speed and pressing of the brush caused changes in the darkness of the strokes, adding a rich dimension to the use of brush and ink and making this a rare work of large regular script from Lin Zexu's late years.


Other highlights

Ink Rubbing of the Stele on Engraving Sutras. Tang Yong, Northern Qi dynasty.

Copy of the Stone Drum Script. Wang Shu (1668-1743), Qing dynasty.

The Expressive Significance of Brush and Ink: Selections from the History of Chinese Calligraphy

Dates: 2018/1/1 - 2018/3/25
Gallery: (Northern Branch) Exhibition Area I 204,206

Taipei National Palace Museum

Opening hours (exhibition I):
Sundays to Thursdays8:30am - 6:30pm
Fridays to Saturdays8:30am - 9pm
Address: 221 Section 2 of Zhishan Road, Shihlin District, Taipei

GroupNT$320 (groups of 10 or more)
DiscountNT$150 (Students with valid international student ID)
FreeChildren under school age / People with disabilities and one accompanying person
Enquiries: 886-2-6610-3600