National Palace Museum Chronicles History of Chinese Calligraphy in Latest Exhibition

Unique forms of calligraphy (the art of writing) have been part of the Chinese cultural tradition through the ages. Besides the pragmatic function of recording information and ideas, calligraphy also serves as a continuous link between the past and the present.

To delve into the development of Chinese calligraphy, National Palace Museum presents an exhibition The Expressive Significance of Brush featuring a selection of sixteen great pieces from the museum’s collection.

The exhibits of the show are arranged in chronological order for a general overview. It starts with the dynasties of the Qin (221-206) and Han (206-220), a crucial era in the history of Chinese calligraphy. During the period, diverse forms of brushed and engraved "ancient writing" and "large seal" scripts were unified into a standard type known as "small seal." Moreover, a universal script known as ‘clerical script’ was created in the Han dynasty as the process of abbreviating and adapting seal script was finalised. Clerical script continued to evolve and eventually led to the formation of "cursive", "running", and "standard" scripts.

Evil Ways Scroll. Liang Wudi (464-549), Southern Liang dynasty

Imperial Directive Presented to Yue Fei. Gaozong (1107-1187), Song dynasty

The dynasties of the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) represent another important period in Chinese calligraphy. Unification of the country brought calligraphic styles of the north and south together following the perfection of brushwork method. Standard script started to become the universal form. In the Song dynasty (960-1279), the tradition of engraving model book copies became a popular way to preserve the works of ancient masters. Song scholar-artists, however, were not satisfied with just following tradition, for they considered calligraphy also as a means of creative and personal expression.

Penetrating the Book of Changes by Master Zhou. Dong Qichang (1555-1636), Ming dynasty

Seven-character Poem. Chen Xiu (circa mid-14th century), Yuan dynasty

Revivalist calligraphers of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) advocated the revival of the classical traditions of the Jin and Tang dynasties. At the same time, notions of artistic freedom and liberation from rules in calligraphy started becoming 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.

General Fan Jun Stele. Anonymous, Tang dynasty

Starting in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), scholars harked back to ancient works inscribed with seal and clerical scripts and drew inspirations from them. They became familiar with steles and helped create a trend in calligraphy that complemented the Model book school. Thus, the Stele school formed yet another link between past and present in its approach to tradition, in which seal and clerical scripts became sources of innovation in Chinese calligraphy.

The Expressive Significance of Brush and Ink

Dates: 1 January - 25 March 2019
Venue: (Northern Branch) Exhibition Area I 204,206
Address: No.221, Sec. 2, Zhishan Rd., Shilin Dist., Taipei City 11143, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
Opening hours: 9am - 5pm
Regular|NT$ 350
Students, visitors aged 18 and under/ 65 and above, visitors with disabilities I Free
Enquiry: +886-2-6610-3600