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Letter to Officer-Gentleman Tu

Tags: calligraphy | National Palace Museum | Sung dynasty


Ts'ai Hsiang (1012-1067), Sung Dynasty (960-1279)
Album leaf, ink on paper, 29.2 x 46.8 cm 
Ts'ai Hsiang, a native of Hsien-yu in Hsing-hua (modern Hsien-yu, Fukien), went by the style name Chün-mo. A Presented Scholar of 1030, he served in government and was renowned for his straightforward speech and courage in remonstrating. A gifted calligrapher, he studied the style of Yü Shih-nan, Yen Chen-ch'ing, and the styles of Chin dynasty masters. He has been grouped along with Su Shih, Huang T'ing-chien, and Mi Fu as one of the "Four Sung Masters."

This letter (also known as "Leaving the City") was written by Ts'ai Hsiang in a period of mourning for the loss of his eldest son (1055), but for the most part Ts'ai still maintains his poise of vigor and beauty in calligraphy. Nonetheless, a few strokes of the brush still reveal fluctuations of emotion that transmit the pain that he must have felt as he was writing. The brushwork here is rounded and solid, while also flowing and wandering, thus revealing Ts'ai's complete success in traditional calligraphic studies. In the flowing grace of the brush movement in the few characters, the forms and structure are enchanting, while the generous spacing of the character structure and the hook method here conform to that of Yen Chen-ch'ing.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum