Friday, August 19, 2011
Qi Gong 启功
Qigong (1912 - 2005) was a renowned Manchu Chinese calligrapher, artist, painter, connoisseur and sinologist.
Qigong was born into a Manchu family in Beijing in 1912. Both his great-grandfather and grandfather were Jinshi, the highest academic title in old China. He was a descendant of the Yongzheng Emperor through his son Hongzhou. Upon coming to prominence, he declined to use the Manchu Aisin Gioro surname, and went by the legal surname of "Qi" to establish a name removed from that of the Imperial family.
One year after his birth, his father passed away and he was brought up by his grandfather, his mother and his aunt. When he was 10 years old, his grandfather died and the family fell into extreme poverty, forcing him to drop out of middle school.
He learned Chinese calligraphy in his childhood. He said that his desire to learn calligraphy was stimulated by a small incident when he was young. One day, a relative asked him for a painting, but would not let him add a colophon on it because the relative disliked his poor calligraphy. Feeling a sense of shame, he had ever since worked hard to practice calligraphy. He studied various historical stone inscriptions of calligraphy in detail and was deft in merging the characteristics of different eras and authors, and versatile in all the writing styles. His style embodies the essence of great classical calligraphers like Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi, yet is unique in its own way.
Qi Gong's unique style of calligraphy is immediately recognizable, and, it was said that he hardly ever refused a request, so examples of his work can be found all over. At times, he had to post a notice on his door declaring ‘The giant panda is ill’ in an effort to deter the endless stream of visitors asking for examples of his calligraphy.