Thursday, March 18, 2010

Zhi Yong: A News Maker? 智永:炒作大王?

Zhi Yong was a descendent of Wang Xizhi, the sage of Chinese calligraphy. He had in his possession many original works of Wang, including the ‘Preface to the Lanting Collection of Poems’ (Lan Ting Xu), which is reputed to be the best walking script in the calligraphy history. Naturally, he practiced diligently from this masterpiece, as well as from Wang Xizhi’s other works.
Zhang Huai Guan, the famous calligraphy theoretician told a number of stories about Zhi Yong in his book entitled ‘Judging Calligraphy’.
It was said that Zhi Yong lived and practiced calligraphy in Yongxin Temple for more than 30 years. He spent many hours every day at his calligraphy so that he used up many brushes. When the brushes became unusable or ‘bald’ with the hairs worn down to the holder, he just tossed them into a large bamboo basket. Over the years, Zhi Yong filled up ten of these baskets. Later he buried them together at a place which was later known as the ‘Brush Tomb’, as if the brushes were heroic soldiers who had fallen on the battlefield.
His skill as a calligrapher brought him fame and the demand for his calligraphy was great. His was best at writing the cursive style (choshu), which was known for being smooth and beautiful, moist yet vigorous. So great was his fame his house was always full of people who came to ask for his calligraphic works. The situation was so bad that his doorway or the threshold was damaged with deep hole by crush of people, so he had to cover it with iron sheets and bars. Zhi Yong’s nickname thus became ‘The Iron Threshold’.
However, there are those who believe that all these were some of his deliberate news-making shows aim to make him famous. If that is the case, Zhi Yong probably is one of the most successful new-makers in the history of Chinese calligraphy.
永公住吴兴永欣寺, 积年学书,后有秃笔头十瓮,每瓮皆数石。人来觅书并请题额者如市。所居户限 为之穿穴,乃用铁叶裹之。人谓为“铁门限”。后取笔头瘗之,号为“退笔冢”。


  1. 如果智永被誉为中国书法有史以来最成功的炒作大王,那谁是新加坡书法史上最成功的炒作大王呢?

  2. 智永以自己的笔与门槛来炒作,比起我们新加坡以他人来做秀,千年前智永的炒作可算是小儿科了。