Zhang Zhi is traditionally honoured as the Sage of Cursive Script and Zhong Yao is said to have achieved high standard in Kaishu (standard script). In fact, he was also attributed to the development of Kaishu.
For his achievements in kaishu, he is peered with Wang Xizhi, the calligraphy sage, referred to as ‘Zhong Wang.’
Zhong Yao (151－230), also named Zhong Yuanchang, was a native of Changge County of Henan Province during the Three Kingdoms Period. He was a successful politician, who served in the official courts of Cao Cao, Cao Pi and Cao Rui of Wei kingdom. He had been treated well by Cao Cao. Following Cao Pi's death and Cao Rui taking the throne, Zhong Yao was appointed as a Grand Tutor of Wei in 226, and as such he was also known as Grand Tutor Zhong.
As a small boy, Zhong studied under such famous calligraphers as Cao Xi, Cai Yong and Liu Desheng, the cream of the crop. He developed adept skills at all kinds of scripts, and was especially good at kaishu. His calligraphy, simple but well-organized in structure and natural in handwriting, represented a transition from lishu (official script) to kaishu.
It is said that the famous saying on calligraphy was from him: ‘While the brush traces the line boundaries, it is man who creates the beauty of the rhythmic flows.’
Once when lecturing on calligraphy to his son - Zhong Hui - he said, ‘I have been studying calligraphy for more than 30 years. Whenever I meet a friend, we will discuss calligraphy by writing on the ground. My bedclothes were lacerated due my practice on them with my hand. I also imitated the living things in nature from the calligraphic point of view.’
His calligraphic works were given great importance in the dynasties to follow, but authentic works of his no longer exist, leaving only duplicates made during the Song Dynasty. His masterpieces were Xuanshi Biao and Jianjizhi Biao.