Tang Dynasty 618 - 907

Tang dynasty, which overthrew the Sui in 618, is regarded by the Chinese as their most glorious periods in culture. With the tremendous thirst for knowledge and veneration of scholars, China was the largest publishing venture in the world. Under a liberal social atmosphere, arts revived, literature boomed and the teaching of Buddhism spread throughout the country.

The perfection of regular script   Growing out of centuries' technical difficulties and confusions, regular script which superseded clerical script as official script during the Jin reached its perfection. The finalized regular script is dignified but graceful, exuberant but composed. With assigned moves and speed, great attention was given to produce firm strokes and balanced characters.

Wild cursive script.   Tang's romantic approach toward the arts invited another script: wild cursive script. With much reduced stroke number, this script furthered the continuous stroke flow of modern cursive script into a scrawl. Still very much in vogue today, its style varies with its authors, who invent a large number of characters that are illegible but are very aesthetically executed and appreciated by collectors.

Zhang Xu ( - )
Poems, 755
Rising in the shape of towering canopy and rolling carriage, the clouds sped across the river and merged into sunset glow.

Song Dynasty 960 - 1279

The Song lived out its days with pressure in the west and north. In 1005 the Khitan beat the Song, forcing the Song to buy peace by tribute. In 1127 the Nuchen crossed the Great Wall, seizing north China. In 1276 Mongol troops stormed the Song's capital. Soon the whole of China became part of the Mongol Empire.

Sentimental styles.   Song poets, painters and thinkers saw the art of handwriting as primarily expressive of the personality of an inspired, self-cultivated scholar. Fine nuances of mood were captured between improvised lines. Technical accuracy was de-emphasized in favor of an unvarnished statement of immediate impression of life. The leading figures of this practice were Four Song Masters, and their uneven, exaggerated characters would inspire many generations to come.

Su Shi (1037 - 1101)
Poem on Cold Food Festival, 1082
ink on rice paper, 118 x 33 cm.
Palace Museum, Taibei

Su Shi was a phenomenon in Chinese culture. As a poet, calligrapher, painter and essayist, he achieved greatness in all of these categories. He passed the highest level of imperial examination to become a civil servant at age of twenty. However, the latter half of his life was full of frustrations due to a political involvement, for which he was once sent to the jail and twice demoted from the court. This poem was written during his first banishment.

It is raining cats and dogs, fusing distant Yangtze River at the window. In this vast sheet of water my hut is like a fishing boat swaying on a raging sea. What in my humble kitchen are cold greens, and what in my dilapidated range are wet reeds. Receiving a letter from home, I realized that it is Cold Food Festival. While those noblemen live in imposing dwellings, I am going to be lost in this remote land. I want to cry for my misfortune, but my withered heart won't to respond.

Ming Dynasty 1369 - 1644

The Mongols ruled China for less than 100 years. In 1368 a rebel leader became the emperor of China. His dynasty, the Ming, lasted for just over 300 years.

Write to trade.   Not all those who were talented could pass the imperial examination to be a civil servant. However, the brisk commodity economy, in which the capitalist sector was gradually identified with Western civilization, afforded troubled candidates the market to trade. Quite many painters and calligraphers, known as Wu School, sprang up in Suzhou, Wu in abbreviation, the national commerce center. Mixed with the taste of bourgeois, scholarly practice of Song master-calligraphers was taken up to challenge Official Style.

Wen Zhengming (1470 - 1559)
I'm having a vacation in the countryside, leaving worldly trifles behind. The house is old; the gate is guarded by a dog; the courtyard is shaded by pines; a crow is cawing in distance.

Chinese calligraphy

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