Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wei Heng on Lishu卫恒:隶书

It was during the Wei Jin period where that rules for calligraphy writing were established. Four families then were famous for producing many calligraphers and Wei family was one of them. The family worked hard for three generation at calligraphy and was particularly good at clerical script (lishu). They revived the old and learned the new. Three members of Wei family, namely Wei Guan, Wei Heng and Wei Shuo, are famous not only for their calligraphic works, also for their contribution to the theories of calligraphy. Wei Guan was the father of Wei Heng and uncle of Wei Shuo.
Wei Shuo’s essay ‘Battle Formation of the Brushstroke’ instructed artists about the flow and law of calligraphy. She maintained that the most important part of calligraphy was the brush, ink, and ink stone. She also recorded seven methods for holding a brush.
Wei Heng’s essay on the ‘Calligraphy Postures of Four Styles’ detailed why calligraphy should be considered a beautiful art form. Below is extracted from the essay that talks about the calligraphy of clerical script (lishu).

When time-consuming seal script could not keep up with multiplied clerical work in Qin, people in servitude were assigned to assist. Their handwriting was called clerical script, a shortcut of seal script. This script continued into the Han while seal script was confined to seals, banners and title of inscriptions.
Wang Cizhong of Shanggu standardized clerical script. The then Emperor Ling was keen on calligraphy, and his keenness yielded many skilled men. The best of the bunch was Shi Yiguan, who could write big characters three meters square or hundreds of small characters on a wood slip an inch wide, which he was proud of. Sometimes he went to a wine shop with empty pockets. He wrote on its wall while waiting his wine money from admiring crowd. When he had enough copper cash for the day, he would scrape the wall clean. He used to pare or burn his wood slips at the finish. To obtain his slips, Liang Gu pretended to be partaking of his drink, and then stole his slips when he was drunk. Benefiting from those slips, Liang Gu at last advanced to the Minister of the Ministry of Official Personnel Affairs. Shi Yiguan joined Yuan Shu's army later. The skilled inscription of Stele of Geng Qiu in Songzi County, which was erected by Yuan, is said to be his handwriting.
Liang Gu joined Liu Biao later on. When Jingzhou fell, Cao Cao recruited him. Cao appointed him the Magistrate of Luoyang, but Liang mistook it for the Constable of the Watch. In confusion, he bound himself to see Cao, thereupon Cao reappointed him to the Secretariat. Liang was a diligent secretary; this is why we can see many of his works today. Cao took delight in hanging Liang Gu's calligraphy in his camp tent and inscribing it on the boards that still hang in his palace. With his favour Cao thought Liang wrote a better hand than Shi Yiguan.
Liang was good at big characters, while his contemporary Handan Chun was good at small characters. He once said that Handan had the essential of Wang Cizhong's standard; his characters in fact exerted it to the extreme. His disciple Mao Hong taught in the Secretariat, whose clerical style is what we practice today.
By the end of Han, Zuo Bo was famous, but a little inferior to Liang Gu and Handan Chun. To the beginning of Wei, Zhong Yao and Hu Zhao defined semi-cursive (walking) script that comes into fashion today. Both of them learned it from Liu Desheng, while Zhong is just a little different from Hu. Each man has his own characteristics; however, both ways of writing are very popular among the people.



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