Regulated Verse in Seven Characters

Tags: calligraphy | National Palace Museum | Yuan dynasty


Chang Yü (1283-1350), Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Hanging scroll, ink on paper, 108.4 x 42.6 cm 
Chang Yü (style name Po-yü and sobriquets Chü-ch’ü wai-shih and Chen-chü), a native of Ch'ien-t'ang (modern Hangchow), was a well-known Taoist of the Yüan dynasty who moved at the age of 29 to Mao-shan (Chü-ch’ü-shan, Chü-jung, Kiangsu), about which he wrote a gazetteer. At the age of 59, he gave up life as a Taoist and became a Confucian scholar, traveling through the Kiangsu and Chekiang area and associating with artists and writers. In addition to being skilled at poetry and prose, he was also an able painter and calligrapher, being praised in the secular and religious worlds.

This particular piece of calligraphy reveals Chang Yü's unique way of ordering the individual characters as well as structuring the composition. The calligraphy is full of twists and turns, rises and falls, and pauses and climaxes. Said by Ming dynasty (1368-1644) writers to combine formal and informal elements from the styles of such calligraphers as Li Yung (678-747) and Huai-su (725-777), Chang's style is a dramatic departure from that of his contemporary Chao Meng-fu. In fact, Chang once studied calligraphy under Chao, and his running and standard scripts clearly reveal Chao's influence. This scroll, however, goes against traditional standards of beauty to reveal a wilder and bolder side. The manner of Ou-yang Hsün is also sometimes seen, but the characters appear to have been composed as if in a drunken stupor. Chang Yü helped pioneer a new chapter in the art of calligraphy and influenced other Yüan and later styles. Here, ink ranges from dark to dry, as if this Taoist had just awoken from intoxication to capture the fleeting traces of inspiration, accounting for the spirited and charged brushwork of the piece much in the manner of Huai-su's "Autobiography" also in the Museum collection. Furthermore, the range between regular, running, and cursive scripts reveals his all-encompassing talents in calligraphy.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum