Thursday, August 20, 2009
The Letter of Loss and Confusion 王羲之《丧乱帖》
Lanting Xu, the famous work by Wang Xizhi (303-361), is reputed to be the best Xingshu (walking script) in the Chinese calligraphy history. As a whole, the brushwork of it is exquisite with thick strokes being robust but not awkward, while narrow strokes are delicate but not weak. The calligraphy was completed in a rhyme with the proper use of force of the brush, light or heavy, fast or slow. Its strong and clear-cut lines and round and mellow forms present us with a fresh, clear, exquisite and closely linked work of art.
However, some calligraphy critics feel that Lanting Xu is not Wang’s best work and instead, prefer the Sangluan Tie (The Letter of Loss and Confusion).
Original works of Wang Xizhi's calligrahy are rarely seen today and most, if not all of the works we see now are rubbed copies of his works by others. It is believed that both Lanting Xu and Sangluan Tie we see today are copy works of later calligraphers. It is not deniable that later calligraphers had done a great job in making the copy works look like the original works. However, in terms of reflecting the original and spiritual mood of the calligrapher, it is pointed out that the copy work of Sang Luan Tie had captured the spirit of Wang’s writing better than that of Lanting Xu.
The text of the calligraphy says, ‘Xizhi kowtows; I am lost and confusing to extremity. The ancestry tombs came apart again! The torment poisoned and pressed me quite brutally. I cried and wailed in despair. The pain has gone through to my heart and my liver. What can I do? Although the tombs are being repaired right now, I cannot go see to the work done. Oh the sorrow, like poison, is running deep each and every moment. What can I do? How can I be? Having come to the paper, I am at a loss of what more to put down. Xizhi kowtows ... kowtows.’
Wang lived in the Wei-Jin period which was a time of turbulence and changes. The Wang family had to flee from the north to the south. It is quite obvious that this letter was written at a time when he felt he was so confused and helpless on knowing that the ancestral tombs in the north were damaged and destroyed. The anger and frustration was displayed thoroughly by words full of hopelessness and grief, and the non-conventional, bold and wild strokes.
The emotion was strong and calligraphic strokes were non-conventional in displaying that emotion – these are the conditions and elements that make Sangluan Tie a great masterpiece.
强烈的感情，以非传统的书法笔画来表达情感 – 这些都是使《丧乱帖》成为名帖的条件与因素。