Friday, February 25, 2011

Xue Ji 薛稷

Xue Ji (649 - 713), courtesy name Sitong, was born in an intellectuals’ family in Puzhou, Fenyang (now Wangrong County in Shanxi). He was considered one of the four greatest calligraphers of the early Tang, along with Ouyang Xun, Yu Shinan and Chu Suiliang.
He was a great-grandson of Xue Daoheng, a great writer and an important official of the Tang Dynasty's preceding Sui Dynasty, and his uncle Xue Yuanchao was once a Chief Councillor during Emperor Gaozong's reign. He actually had a successful official career and held a number of senior positions in the imperial court. Unfortunately, in 713, during Emperor Xuanzong’s reign, he was embroiled into the case of Dou Huaizhen, who plotted to stage a coup. Xue Ji was arrested and imprisoned and ordered to commit suicide at the age of 63.
His maternal grandfather Wei Zheng had a large collection of books and reading materials, among them were authentic calligraphic works of Yu Shinan and Chu Suiliang. He had seen many calligraphic works of Yu Shinnan and Chu Suiliang in his grandfather’s house and was inspired to practice calligraphy. Later, when he served in the inner court, he had the opportunity to learn from works of many famous calligraphers from Wei and Jin periods like Zhong Yao, Zhang Xu, Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi.
However, Xue Ji left few calligraphic works. From his work left in small regular script, one can see the characteristics of the early Tang regular script: thin and rigid. His learning journey can be classified into three phases. During the first phase, he learned from calligraphy of Ouyang Xun and Yu Shinan. In the second phase, he favoured the work of Chu Suiliang and was very much inspired by Chu. During his later years, he was able to break away from the influences of Ouyang, Yu and Chu, and created his own style. He thus became a most famous calligrapher during the later period of the early Tang dynasty and exerted great influence on the later generations.
On the whole, Chu Suiliang had the most influential impact on Xue Ji’s calligraphy as Xue faithfully learned and retained Chu’s style of writing.

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