Friday, November 26, 2010

Chu Suiliang’s Story 褚遂良逸事

Chu Suiliang (597–658) learned calligraphy from OuyangXun and Yu Shinan successively and later was influenced by Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi’s calligraphy. He was therefore able to learn from different styles and took the advantage to create his own style, known as ‘Chu Style Calligraphy’.
When Chu Suiliang was young, his calligraphy was praised by Ouyang Xun. However, Yu Shinan’s calligraphy was what Chu admired most. One day, Chu asked Yu, ‘What do you think of my calligraphy as compared to that of Zhi Yong?’ Yu was one of Zhi Yong’s best students, so he replied: ‘I heard a word written by Zhi Yong is worth $50,000. Do you think your calligraphy can fetch that price?’ Chu asked again: ‘How about comparing with the calligraphy of Ouyang Xun?’ Yu replied, ‘I heard Ouyang can use any type of ink to write on any paper, and yet still can achieve result with utmost satisfaction effortlessly. Do you think you can do the same?’ Thinking that he would not be able to do better than these great calligraphers, he was discouraged and said: ‘If this is the case, what is the point of wasting my time on learning calligraphy?’ Yu then tried to inspire him: ‘If you can reach a stage where you feel your writing is smooth, your brush move naturally and ink flow smoothly, and occasionally can produce masterly pieces, then all your effort is worthwhile.’ Chu Suiliang was indeed inspired, and since then his calligraphy had improved by leaps and bounds.
After Yu Shinan’s death, Emperor Taizong had, on one occasion, commented to the chancellor Wei Zheng that there was no one that he could discuss calligraphy with. Wei recommended Chu's calligraphy, and Emperor Taizong immediately summoned Chu into his presence and was very surprised at his calligraphic skills.
When, on another occasion, Emperor Taizong put out notices of rewards, requesting that people submit works of the great calligrapher Wang Xizhi to him, many people submitted works purported to be by Wang, and it became difficult to tell which were genuine and which were forged. Chu was put in charge of discerning these purported Wang works, and he was able to clearly distinguish them without mistakes, and it quickly became a favorite topic of conversation among the people.
Chu was a morally upright man who always offered honest advice to Emperor Taizong's reign. Once, When Emperor Taizong wanted to review the imperial historical records that Chu was responsible for keeping, Chu rebuffed Emperor Taizong, stating that it would be irregular for an emperor to look at how an imperial historian was writing about him. Emperor Taizong then made the comment, ‘Do you record the bad things I do as well?’ Chu responded, ‘It is my responsibility, and I would not dare not to record them.’ The chancellor Liu Ji then stated, ‘Even if Chu Suiliang does not record them, everyone will.’ Emperor Taizong agreed with both of them.

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