Thursday, March 4, 2010

Zhi Yong 智永

In Chinese history, the Qin and Han dynasties witnessed the most dramatic change of Chinese writing system. However, it was during the period of Wei, Jin and Southern & Northern dynasties that the prominence was given to the development of calligraphy. This period is defined by modern calligraphers as ‘the establishing period of Chinese calligraphy’.
Fast forwarded to Sui dynasty that was founded in 581 AD. During this period, the society flourished in every aspect, including calligraphy. However, calligraphy of the Sui dynasty, represented by Zhi Yong, was really just a transition from one high point in Wei Jin dynasties to another in Tang dynasty.
Zhi Yong, also name Faji, was born in Huiji (now Shaoxing in Zhejiang). His family name was Wang, and according to the records of some ancient books, he was the seventh-generation descendent of Wang Xizhi, the sage of calligraphy. His birth year was unknown. He first became a monk in Yongxin Temple and moved to Ximing Temple in Chang-an later. Yongxin Temple was originally the residence of Wang Xizhi, was converted to a temple for unknown reason. When it was converted, it was called Yunmen Temple.
Zhi Yong’s calligraphic works were first known by people in the Chen period (557 – 589) of the Southern Dynasties and became very famous in the Sui dynasty. So his calligraphy is considered to be part of Sui calligraphy. He was also famed by his student, Yu Shinan, a great calligrapher in Tang Dynasty.
Zhi Yong became a monk when he was very young and lived a seclude life in Yongxing Temple for 30 years. During that period, he got up early every morning and prepared a large grail of calligraphy ink to practice in Wang Xizhi’s model calligraphic works. He was good at regular script and cursive script. His work in regular script was brisk and yet precise, and his cursive style was free and firm.
His famous calligraphic work is ‘The Thousand-Character Essay in Regular and Cursive Scripts’ (Zhencao Qianziwen). It is said to be a piece from heaven, and is widely used by calligraphy learners as a model book.

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