Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lanting Xu: The Best Walking Script in the World 兰亭序:天下第一行书

Lanting Xu, reputed as ‘the best walking script in the world (China)’, was a famous work by Wang Xizhi (303-361), the celebrated calligrapher of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420).
Lanting is the most beautiful and picturesque place at Shanyin and the famous Lanting Xu was a narrative prose composed when he and his literary friends gathered together at Lanting in the year 353. The gentlemen had engaged in a drinking contest: wine cups were floated down a small winding creek as the men sat along its banks; whenever a cup stopped, the man closest to the cup was required to empty it and write a poem. In the end, twenty-six of the participants composed thirty-seven poems.
The word ‘lan’ means orchids, and "ting" means pavilion; so Lanting means the ‘Orchard Pavilion.’ Lanting Xu in Chinese refers to ‘Preface to the Lanting Collection of Poems’. The preface consists of 324 Chinese characters in 28 lines.
The emperor Taizong of the Tang dynasty loved Wang's calligraphy so much that he collected as many of Wang's original scrolls as he could and ordered them buried with him. The authentic works of Wang Xizhi, including Lanting Xu, are no longer in existence now. They are only preserved on stone engravings or as replica copies by other calligraphy masters.
The best reproduction of Lanting Xu seen so far is by Feng Chengsu. It is stamped with a seal of Emperor Zhongzong of the Tang Dynasty on it. As the words - divine-dragon were engraved on the seal, this reproduction is therefore known as the Divine Dragon Lanting. It is now kept in the Palace Museum in Taibei (Taipei).
Its powerful and vigorous strokes and its natural and elegant structure have remained a perfect example to be modelled after by later generations for almost two thousand years till today. In this calligraphy work, Wang Xizhi completely cast away the heavy and reserved style and created a new calligraphy style of elegance, vigour, and smoothness.
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被称为天下第一行书的‘兰亭序’是东晋(317-420)大书法家王羲之的名作。
兰亭是山阴最美丽、风景如画的地方,而著名的兰亭序就是王羲之与友人在公元353年在那里雅集时写的叙述散文。这次文人在饮酒竞戏:酒杯沿着弯曲的小溪流下,文人坐在两边溪岸。酒杯停下时,最靠近酒杯者要一饮而尽,并作一首诗。最后,26位参与者共写了37首诗。
兰亭序就是为这次诗集而写的序文。兰亭序共有324个字,28行。
唐太宗最爱好王羲之的字,大量收集他的作品,并下令把它们作为他的陪葬品。王羲之的真品,包括兰亭序,已没有传世。它们只有以石刻或其他书法家摹写本而流传。
目前所见的最佳摹本为馮承素所写的。这个版本有唐中宗的盖印。该印刻有‘神龙’二字,所以又叫‘神龙本兰亭’。它现在存于台北故宫博物院。
这帖有力和强健笔画与自然和优雅结构,接近两千年以来至今,一直是被摹写的范本。在这个法帖中,王羲之完全放弃了沉重与保留的风格,而创造了优雅、强健与流畅的风格。

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