Friday, April 8, 2011
Cai Yong Created ‘Flying-White’ Calligraphy 蔡邕创飞白体
Cai Yong (132-192), also named Bojie, was a famous scholar and calligrapher in East Han dynasty. His highest post was Left Zhonglang-General, a military position which commanded imperial guard troops. So he is also called Cai Zhong Lang by people afterwards. He was also a theorist of calligraphy. Click here to learn more.
His clerical script was famous, and the comment was that ‘Cai Yong’s script is vigorous and with mysterious expressive power.
In 175, the fourth year of Xiping period under the Han Emperor Ling’s reign, Cai Yong and others made effort in revising the six Confucian classics which at that time contained too many wrongly used words and strained interpretations. They did this with the approval of the emperor so that the learners would not be misled. He also obtained the permission of the emperor to inscribe all the six classics on stone tablets and erect them in front of the imperial library. There were all together 46 tablets known as Stone Classics of Xiping Reign, also known as the Classics of the Imperial Library. They had great influence on later classic study and collation. It is said that when the tablets were elected, thousands of people instead came to study the calligraphy every day. They came in carriages that blocked the place and caused massive traffic jam. This was indeed a rare scene in the ancient China.
One day, he was summoned to see the emperor at Hongdu, the imperial library. The gate of Hongdu was in repair. While waiting for the call of the emperor outside of the gate of Hongdu, he saw the trails of the brush of workers brushing calcareousness on the wall. He was impressed by the trails and thought that was novel. He was inspired by the trails. After some research and study, he created the flying-white style of calligraphy, whereby the writing brush was used in a quick and elegant way to give the impression of being carefree and energetic.
Empress Wu Zetian (624 - 705), the only empress in Chinese history, probably was the only person in the history admired the flying-white techniques. She managed to develop her own style of flying white decorated with bird drawings. Her calligraphy was like her character, strong, expressive and bold.
Today, flying white is not an often used technique.