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History of Chinese calligraphy : Tang dynasty


Tang is a prosperous dynasty in Chinese calligraphy. Calligraphy was used to evaluate a person. By a law of Tang dynasty, calligraphy is one aspect in selecting talent. There were 6 science in the national academy of sciences. Calligraphy is one of them. The whole society value calligraphy seriously. So there're a lot of great calligraphers and calligraphy theorists at this time.

From Wei Jin to the South North dynasty, the popular scripts are Kai Shu, Xing Shu and Cao Shu. Specialists of all scripts appeared in Tang dynasty. Li Yangbing is good at Zhuan Shu. Han Zemu is good at Li Shu. Calligraphers specially good at Cao Shu include Zhang Xu, Huai Su and Sun Guoting. As to Xing Shu and Kai Shu, lots of people are good at it.

In earlier Tang, Tang Tai Zong (Li Shimin, the second emperor of Tang dynasty) loved Wang Xizhi's calligraphy. He spent a lot of money in searching Wang Xizhi's calligraphy works. So most calligraphers this time studied Wang Xizhi's calligraphy. There were four great calligraphers at this time. They are Yu Shinan, Oyang Xun, Chu Suiliang and Xue Ji. In the middle Tang, there came a great calligrapher, Yan Zhenqing. He changed the style of earlier Tang significantly. His calligraphy works are solemn, dignified, stately, majestic, tremendous. Liu Gongquan after him created the style thin but full of energy. Peole say Yan sinew and Liu bone.

As the developing of calligraphy, the theories of calligraphy boomed at this time too. Tang Tai Zong, Li Shimin pointed out that spirit was the soul of calligraphy and mind was the muscle. Ouyang Xun explained the eight methods of the character Yong (Yong Zi Ba Fa). Yan Zhenqing stated how his teacher, Zhang Xu taught him the method of writing. He also pointed out that the calligraphy should looks like drawing on sand with awl and seal on mud. Xu Hao pointed out that the relation between the bone and muscle of calligraphy. Zhang Huaihuan's "Shu Duan" is a famous book of calligraphy. He stated the history of 10 different scripts and elaborated the characteristics of each scripts. The most influential and important calligraphy theory is Sun Guoting's Shu Pu. He addressed many important problems about calligraphy. Especially in inherit and creation, he pointed out to study calligraphy works before but don't be limited in it. He also talked about how to study calligraphy step by step. 

Famous calligraphy works:

Kong Zi Miao Tang Bei, Jiu Cheng Gong Li Quan Ming, Yan Ta Sheng Jiao Xu, Duo Bao Ta Bei, Ma Gu Shan Xian Tan Ji, Yan Qin Li Bei, Xuan Mi Ta, Ji Zhi Wen Gao, Yun Hui Jiang Jun Bei, Wen Fu, Gu Shi Si Tie, Zi Xu Tie, Shu Pu.

Famous calligraphers:

Yu Shinan (558-638). Zi: Bo Shi. Born in Yue Zhou Yu Tao (belongs to Jiang Su province today), he is the pupil of Zhi Yong. His calligraphy has elegant disposition and peaceful manner. Representative calligraphy works are "Kong Zi Miao Tang Bei" and "Ru Nan Gong Zhu Mu Zhi Ming".

Ouyang Xun (557-641). Zi: Xin Ben. Born in Chang Sha, Hu Nan province, his calligraphy is perilous and powerful, different and surprising in structure. People call his calligraphy Ou Style. His calligraphy works include Jiu Cheng Gong, Zhang Han, Bu Shang and Meng Dian Tie.

Chu Suiliang (596-659). Zi: Deng Shan. Born in Hang Zhou, studied Yu Shinan's calligraphy first. Later, he studied Zhong You and Wang Xizhi. His calligraphy is mild and beautiful. It's said Tang Tai Zong had many Wang Xizhi's calligraphy but no one can tell which one is real and which one is fake except Chu Suiliang. His representative calligraphy work is Yan Ta Sheng Jiao xu.

Xue Ji (649-713). Zi: Si Tong. Born in Pu Zhou Zhuo Yin (west of Wan Rong county of Shan Xi province today), he is a grandchildren of Wei Zheng, who was the prime minister at the time of Tang Tai Zong. Wei Zheng's home had a lot of calligraphy works of Yu Shinan and Chu Suiliang. He studied those two people's calligraphy. He is called four great calligraphers of early Tang together with Yu Shinan, Ouyang Xun, Chu Suiliang.

Li Yong (678-747). Zi: Tai He. Born in Yang Zhou, he studied Wang Xizhi's Xing Shu earlier. He wrote many tablets. Among them, Li Si Xun Bei and Lu Shan Si Bei are strong, powerful and thick, especially high valued by people. Yun Hui Jiang Jun Bei also is his famous work.

Lu Jianzhi (585-638). Born in Su Zhou, he is a nephew of Yu Shinan. Studied Yu Shinan's calligraphy earlier, he changed to two Wang later. His son Lu Yanyuan is called small Lu. Lu Yuanyuan passed his father's calligraphy to his nephew Zhan Xu. Wen Fu is his famous piece.

Sun Guoting (648-703). Zi: Qian Li. Born in Fu Yang (southwest of Hang Zhou today), the most famous calligraphy theorist. He is good at Cao Shu. His book <<Shu Pu>> is written in Cao Shu.

Zhang Xu. Zi: Bo Gao. Born in Su Zhou, he like drink alcohol. Every time he is drunk, he runs and screams and write. He's called crazy Zhang. He is good at Cao Shu and people call him Cao god. His calligraphy together with Li Bai's poem and Pei Min's sward art are called 3 superb. His representative calligraphy is Gu Shi Si Tie.

Li Yangbing. Zi: Shao Wen. Born in Zhao county of He Bei province, he is good at Zhuan Shu

Zhang Congshen. Every time he wrote a tablet, Li Yangbing wrote the title in Zhuan Shu for him.

Yan Zhenqing (709-785). Zi: Qing Chen. Born in Lang Ye Lin Qin (Lin Qin county of Shan Dong province today), he studied Chu Suiliang's calligraphy earlier. Later, he became a student of Zhang Xu. He broke the rules of earlier Tang dynasty and created a brand new style.

Han Zemu. Born in Chang Li (belongs to Hebei today), he was famous for his Li Shu. People said his Li Shu is as good as Cai Yong.

Zhong Shaojing. Zi: Ke Da. Born in Qian Zhou Gan (Gan county of Jiang Xi province today), almost all horizontal inscribe boards are written by him at the time of Wu Zetian, who is the only woman emperor of Chinese history. His famous piece is Ling Fei Jing.

Xu Hao (703-782). Zi: Ji Hai. Born in Yue Zhou (Shao Xing of Zhe Jiang province today), he was good at Kai Shu and Li Shu. People called his calligraphy like thirsty horse running toward water. Representative calligraphy works include Zhu Ju Chuan Gao Shen, Bu Kong He Shang Bei and Da Zhi Chan Shi Bei.

Huai Su (725-785). Zi: Cang Zhen. He was a monk. His family name is Qian. Born in Chang Sha, he was famous for his Cao Shu. He also like alcohol. His calligraphy like a sacred snake running, strong wind and violent storm. Representative calligraphy works include Zi Xu Tie and Ku Sun Tie.

Shen Chuanshi (769-827). Zi: Zi Yan. Born in Su Zhou, his calligraphy looks like dragon flying in the sky and tiger crouching on side of a brook. Representative calligraphy work is Yue Lu Si Shi.

Liu Gongquan (778-865). Zi: Cheng Xuan. Born in Yao Xian of Shan Xi, created the thin and powerful style. People say him Yan Liu together with Yan Zhenqing. Representative calligraphy works include Xuan Mi Ta, Jin Gang Jing and Shen Ce Jun Bei.

Yang Ningshi (873-954). Zi: Jing Du. Born in Hua Yin (belongs to Shan Xi today), he pretended to be crazy. People call him craze Yang. His famous piece is Jiu Hua Tie.

Han dynasty Chinese calligraphy history.

South and North dynasty Chinese calligraphy history.

Jin dynasty Chinese calligraphy history.

Tang dynasty Chinese calligraphy history.

Song dynasty Chinese calligraphy history.

Ming dynasty Chinese calligraphy history.

Qing dynasty Chinese calligraphy history.

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Last modified: 05/09/09