Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wang Xizhi’s Story 王羲之的故事

Wang Xizhi (321-379) was born into an aristocratic family, but he was not enthusiastic about fame and wealth. When he first arrived in Zhejiang, he wanted to end his service for the government and retire to a life of comfort. The court loved his talents and wanted to appoint him as princely attendant and imperial secretary of the Ministry of Rites. But Wang declined these appointments. He finally retired from the government service on the ground of his poor health.
When he was young, he was slow and dull. No genius could be seen. In fact, he wrote more poorly than the other children. But his diligence in later years left others far behind. Whenever he took up his brush, he would concentrate so hard that he would forget about eating and his sorrows. Even when he was eating, reading or walking, he would think about the size and structure of the words and how to wield the brush. He would write with his finger. So eventually all of his clothes and books were worn out by his constant strokes. Once he forgot to have his meal while he was practising. So his dish was put on his desk. Not knowing what he was doing, he dipped his bun into the ink and ate with great relish, his mouth blackened.
When he was 20 years old, the Emperor’s advisor Xi Jian (269-339) sent one of his associated to Wang’s father to state his wish to have one of his sons as a son-in-law. Wang’s father told the messenger to take a look at the young men in the house. The messenger later reported to Xi that the young Wangs are all suitable men. However, when he arrived there to see them, all became tense and uneasy. There was one exception. He just lay on his back with his belly uncovered, nonchalant as if he knew nothing of the purpose of his visit. On hearing this, Xi said, ‘That one will do fine.’ And that young man’s name was Wang Xizhi.
Wang Xizhi is particularly remembered for his love for geese. Legend has it that one day, he visited the beautiful landscape of Shao Xing with his son by boat. He found a flock of gooses on the bank, he liked them very much and prepared to buy all of them. These gooses were raised by a Daoist who knew Wang Xizhi was a well-known calligrapher. He said to Wang, ‘If you could write Huangtingjing for me, I will give all of these gooses to you.’ Wang Xizhi was eager to get these gooses, so he agreeably complied with his demand and conditions.
It is said that Wang learnt the key of turning his wrist in calligraphy writing by observing how the geese move their necks.
王羲之 (321-379)生于豪门大族,但他并不热心于名誉与富贵。初到浙江,他就想要辞官退休。后朝廷欲官授待中,礼部尚书、王羲之皆不接受。最后以健康理由辞官归隐。

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