Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cui Yuan on Cursive Script: Anxious Birds on the Verge of Flight 崔瑗的草书意象:志在飞移

Cui Yuan (77–142 or 78–143 AD), alternative name Ziyu, was a scholar and noted calligrapher of the Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD) in China. He is known for his many written works, although in political life he became involved in court intrigues which damaged his career. Cui Yuan was born in Anping, Hebei province. He was the son of the famous scholar Cui Yin, who died while Yuan was in his teens.
Cui Yuan’s treatise Caoshu Shi (‘The Style of the Cursive Script’) is said to be the earliest written work that touches on the subject of aesthetic imagery Chinese calligraphy.
Below is his treatise on Cursive Script as quoted by Wei Heng. Some of the observations and propositions he made in the essay have great influence on the calligraphy theories. (The English translation may not be able to capture the intended meanings of Cui Yuan. Readers who can read Chinese should the Chinese text so as appreciate better Cui Yuan's theory on aesthetic imagination as applied to cursive script of Chinese calligraphy.)

The Chinese writing system was developed by Cang Ji. He created the Chinese written characters by observing the footprints of birds and animals.
When government affairs grew complicated, the old style lagged behind. Weeding out its superfluities, clerical script came into use. Reducing clerical characters further to bare essentials, cursive script was then worked out.
Lending handwriting the virtue of speed, the new style met all urgent administrative need. Since this is meant to be an adaptation, why should we be punctilious to old fashion? Upon savouring its expression, we see a new standard in its own right. Not as square as a carpenter's square, nor as round as circle by drawn by a compass, the strokes slope backward in a lop-sided manner. Sometimes they appear as alert as anxious birds on the verge of flight, or astonished wily hares about to flee. Sometimes they appear as scattered as a chain of pearls, or a herd of cattle rushing in pent-up fury. In other cases they appear as dangerous as tottering rocks sitting on the edge of cliff, or mantises hanging on twigs. At the finish, the ending stroke flows onto the next character as if a wasp seeks an opportunity to attack, or a returning snake still shows its tail. Viewing at a distance, the whole looks like a gloomy hill or a collapsing precipice; examining closely, no single stroke can be altered.
The variations depend on the context. What touched here is only a brief account.
崔瑗(77-142或78-143)字子玉,是东汉(公元前202年 - 公元220年)学者与著名书法家。他闻名于著作,虽然涉及宫廷纠纷而影响了他的仕途。崔瑗出生于河北安平县,是著名学者崔駰的儿子。崔瑗少年时,崔駰就死了。


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