Poem in Seven-character Verse

Tags: calligraphy | National Palace Museum | Sung dynasty


Huang T'ing-chien (1045-1105), Sung Dynasty (960-1279)
Album leaf, ink on paper, 30.7 x 43.2 cm
Ninth leaf from the album "Sung ssu-chia mo-pao" 
Huang T'ing-chien (style name Lu-chih; sobriquet Fu-weng) was a native of Fen-ning, Kiangsi. At the age of 23, he received his Presented Scholar (chin-shih) civil service degree. During his career as an official, he served as Prefect of T'ai-ho in Shansi and Editor at court. During the Shao-sheng era (1094-1097), however, he was demoted to Mounted Escort of Fu-chou in Szechuan, living in Ch'ien-chou and later moving to Jung-chou. Late in life, Huang was demoted to I-chou in Kuang-hsi, passing away at the age of 60 in office. Despite the vicissitudes of his career, he is recognized as a major poet-calligrapher of the Northern Sung who associated with Su Shih, whom he equaled in the art of poetry. The sources of his calligraphy were varied, but he was mostly influenced by Yen Chen-ch'ing (709-785), Su Shih, and the Southern Dynasties "I-ho ming" stone engraving. In 1094, he saw Huai-su's (725-777) "Autobiography," a masterpiece in cursive calligraphy now also in the National Palace Museum collection. Inspired, his style became increasingly strong and cursive.

In 1087, Huang T'ing-chien wrote two poems to his friend Wang Kung in Yang-chou, saying, "Wang Chih-ch'ing [Shen] has many times written poems waiting for my response, but I have never felt like writing a poem. However, he does not give up, often sending gifts of flowers. In jest, I have written this poem to him!" Thus, this poem was originally meant for Wang Shen and it expressed Huang's desire to avoid responding to him. Here, the brushwork is strong and upright, and the ink varies between dry and moist. The poem translates as, "Flowers’ fragrance incenses one to break meditation; Even one in a frame of mind past middle years. Poetic thoughts come in spring not unlike the rowing of a boatman against the stream."

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum