Thursday, July 23, 2009

Suo Jing 索靖

In the history of Chinese calligraphy, the works of calligraphy are generally classified into the Southern or North schools. The calligraphers of both schools practiced the calligraphy of Zhong Yao and Wei Guan. Suo Jing was the founder of the Northern school, and Wang Xizhi and his son Xianzhi founded the Southern school.
As a person who was named the founder of Northern school or the School of Stele Calligraphy, Suo Jing naturally occupied an important place in the Chinese calligraphy history.
Suo Jing (239-303) was a calligrapher lived in the Western Jin period. He was the grandson of the sister of the famous calligrapher Zhang Zhi of Eastern Han dynasty. Therefore, his calligraphy was greatly influenced by Zhang Zhi. He was famous for his Caoshu, or the running/cursive script, especially Zhangcao (a kind of Caoshu which was evolved from Lishu, or the Clerical script).
During the time of Emperor Wu of Jin, both Suo and Wei worked in the same State office. Wei was the Chief State Secretary and Suo the State Undersecretary. As both were good in calligraphy and each had his own style, they were known as ‘Two Wonders in One Office’. This is to say that both had inherited the calligraphy tradition of Zhang Zhi. Someone commented later, ‘Wei has mastered Zhang’s quality of muscle and Suo has mastered Zhang’s quality of flesh.’ (The Chinese traditional aesthetic theory has valuated individual brush strokes according to four qualities, namely, bone, flesh, muscle and blood.)
Suo’s calligraphy available today include ‘Chushi Song’ (Eulogy of Launching the Campaign), ‘Yueyi Tie’, and ‘Jijiu Zhang’ (Hurriedly Written Essay).  Suo’s works were included in the famous Chunhuage Tie (a collection of model calligraphic works) produced in Song dynasty. Suo’s calligraphy influenced greatly the later calligraphers. The famous calligraphy Ouyang Xun of Tang dynasty was well known for his paying attention to calligraphic techniques and he seldom praised ancient calligraphers. Once, he saw the calligraphy of Suo carved on a slab stone, he was so attracted to it that he couldn’t bear to leave the place. So he stayed there for a few days so that he can appreciate and study the calligraphy in details.
‘Chushi Song’ was collected by Wang Shimao of Song dynasty. During Qing dynasty, it was first collected by An Yizhou and later became part of the collection of the Qing Court. On 9 November 1922, Fu Yi brought it out of Qing Court, on the pretext that it was to be given to Fu Jie. Since 1945, it disappeared among the people and in 2003, it miraculously re-appeared.
In Jul 2003, the China Guardian Auctions Co., Ltd announced its plan to auction it, claiming that it was the only authentic work of Suo Jing and classified it as ‘the oldest Chinese calligraphic work available’, ‘amazing re-appearance of calligraphic masterpiece of Western Jin’ and ‘currently the only discovered authentic work of Suo Jing’. On 10 July 2003, the Palace Museum in Beijing shocked the world by buying the ancient calligraphy work for 22 million Chinese yuan.

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