Friday, August 20, 2010

Ouyang Xun: Commemorative Stone Tablet for the Sweet Spring near the Jiucheng Palace 欧阳询:《九成宫醴泉铭碑》

Ouyang Xun left a number of masterpieces engraved on commemorative stone tablets and those works have remained to be excellent models for practice and emulation over 1,000 years. Their influences on later calligraphers are indisputable. Even the great calligrapher Yan Zhenqing had studied Ouyang's styles diligently before he invented his style which later impacted greatly on Liu Gongquan. Since then, most calligraphy students of regular script (kaishu) would choose either styles of Ouyang, Yan, or Liu.
Commemorative Stone Tablet for the Sweet Spring at the Jiucheng Palace (Jiucheng Gong) is his signature work in regular script. Chen Jiru, a scholar of Ming dynasty once commented, this calligraphic piece is ‘like a mountain recluse who has achieved the ultimate wisdom, gaunt and lean in muscle but robust in spirit.’ Another scholar Zhao Han praised that it is the best calligraphic work in regular script.
The Jiucheng Palace was originally built in the Sui dynasty and Emperor Tang Taizong visited the palace in 632. Taizong is said to have discovered a sweet spring on its ground, which was interpreted as a propitious sign. Consequently, a commemorative stele was erected at the spot. The text was written by senior court officer Wei Zheng and calligraphy by Ouyang Xun.
The calligraphy of Ouyang Xun, a follower of the calligraphic style of Wang Xizhi, has a ‘steeper’ look than that of Wang Xizhi. His regular script style employs brushstrokes that are thicker at the two ends and thinner in the middle, falling in the contractive category. The indrawn strokes in turn produce an indrawn character structure, with outer lines drawn inward, forming arcs, and strokes concentrated as much as possible in the interior, creating a character structure that is compact in the centre and less dense in the periphery. At the same time, some strokes are made longer than normal, transgressing the character grid, in order to avoid giving an overcautious look.
However, some critics commented that the steeper strokes and structures of his calligraphy make it very difficult for most beginners to emulate his style because a slight error or deviation will result in wide divergences in strokes, structures, and the overall look.

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