Friday, August 13, 2010

Anecdotes about Ouyang Xun 欧阳询轶事

Ouyang was born in the Northern and Southern Dynasties. He was intelligent since young and was very serious in his study, with a special interest in calligraphy.
He was totally engrossed in the learning of calligraphy. One day, during an outing with his friends, Ouyang came across a stele inscribed by Suo Jing, a famous calligrapher of the Western Jin Dynasty. In order to understand the unique feature of Suo Jing’s techniques of using brush, he stood there and studied carefully the inscriptions. The more he studied the inscriptions, the more subtle it became. Shortly, the sky became dark, but Ouyang’s interest in the inscriptions remained strong. He decided to sleep near the stele for the night so that he could continue to study the stele the next day. At the end, he went on to explore the stele for another three days before leaving it reluctantly.
He was often considered the best kaishu (regular script) calligrapher of the Tang Dynasty. His fame reached overseas so the ancient Korea sent a special envoy to the Tang court to acquire his calligraphy. According to historical records, Ouyang Xun was an ugly person, but his calligraphy was well known throughout the country. People were eager to obtain authentic copies of letters written by him and they treated calligraphy in their possession as a treasure. They would use his calligraphy as model works for practice. During the reign of Tang Gaozu Li Yuan (618-624), Korea sent a special envoy to capital Chang-an to acquire Ouyang’s calligraphy. Tang Gaozu said emotionally, ‘I have never expected his fame has reached thus far, even the barbarians in faraway places know him. When they see the brush work of Ouyang, perhaps they may think that he is a strong and big man.’
It seems that the Japanese also admire the calligraphy of Ouyang Xun. The Asahi Shimbun is one of the largest newspapers in Japan; it publishes both morning and evening daily editions. The four Chinese characters of its name that appear in the newspaper’s masthead are words selected from Ouyang’s calligraphy. When the newspaper was founded, it was decided that words written by Ouyang would be used. The three words ‘chao’(朝), ‘ri’(日) and ‘wen’(闻) were chosen from ouyang’s famous calligraphic work of clerical script ‘A Panegyric of the Imperial Temple’ stele. The word ‘xin’(新) could not be found, so radicals of ‘qin’(亲) and ‘xi’(析) were extracted to form the word. As a result, the energetic structure and bony and vigorous style of Ouyang’s calligraphy becomes part of the masthead of the newspaper.

歐陽詢對書法學習十分投入,有一次在旅遊途中,見到了西晉書法家索靖寫的石碑,他為了瞭解索靖用筆的奇特之處,於是仔細的研究,果然越看越覺得奧妙。 不久,天色漸漸暗沈,可是歐陽詢的興致依然濃厚,便乾脆拿了鋪蓋睡在石碑旁邊,等到天亮繼續琢磨。就這樣一字一畫的考究了三天,才依依不捨的離開。(原文出自《书林纪事》:‘欧阳询尝行,见古碑,晋索靖所书。驻马观之,良久而去。数百步复反,下马伫立,及疲,乃布裘坐观,因宿其旁,三日方去。’)

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