- Two Chinese Treatises on Calligraphy: Treatise on Calligraphy (Shu pu) [by] Sun Qianli; Sequel to the "Treatise on Calligraphy" (Xu Shu pu) [by] Jang Kui (review)
- China Review International
- University of Hawai'i Press
- Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 1997
- pp. 353-356
- View Citation
- Additional Information
Reviews 353© 1997 by University ofHawai'i Press Chang Ch'ung-ho and Hans H. Frankel, introduction, translations, and annotations. Two Chinese Treatises on Calligraphy: Treatise on Calligraphy (Shu pu) [by] Sun Qianli; Sequel to the "Treatise on Calligraphy" (Xu Shu pu) [by] Jang Kui. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995. xv, 144 pp. Hardcover $25.00, isbn 0-300-06118-8. Calligraphy is one of China's most ancient art forms and has played a significant role in the traditional culture of China and of such neighboring countries as Korea and Japan. Whereas Chinese calligraphy is popular in its home country, it remains the least known Chinese art form to the West in spite of some serious scholarly work during the last several decades by Western students of Chinese art history. Compared to studies of Chinese painting, a sister art regarded as inferior to calligraphy by the standards of Chinese literati, calligraphy has received much less scholarly attention, and dissertations and monographs on Chinese calligraphy in Western languages are few. Besides several general introductory works, scarcely a dozen doctoral dissertations have been written on Chinese calligraphy in Western languages over the past three decades. Perhaps this is partiy because Western calligraphy lacks equivalent social and cultural status and tends to be viewed as craft rather than a fine art, and partly because the study of Chinese calligraphy demands reading skill in ancient scripts and cursive writing. Accordingly, there is a virtual drought ofWestern studies of Chinese calligraphic theory, especially in English, compared to the scholarly attention devoted to Chinese painting theory. In the field ofcalligraphy, there are few scholarly works equivalent in quality to William R. B. Acker's Some Tang and Pre-Tang Texts on Chinese Painting (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1954-1974), Osvald Siren's The Chinese on theArt ofPainting: Translations and Comments (New York: Schochen Books, 1963), Susan Bush's The Chinese Literati on Painting: Su Shih (1037-1101) to Tung Ch'i-ch'ang (1555-1636) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), and the translations by Susan Bush and Hsiao-yen Shih in Early Chinese Texts on Painting (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985). Translations and discussions of calligraphic theory are mainly scattered in a few articles, dissertations, monographs, and exhibition catalogs, such as Traces ofthe Brush: Studies in Chinese Calligraphyby Fu Shen (Yale University Art Gallery, 1977). The scarcity ofgood translations and studies focused on important texts of calligraphic theory, in turn, further prevents Westerners from deepening their research into, and understanding of, the art of Chinese calligraphy. Introduced, translated, and annotated by the distinguished calligrapher Chang Ch'ung-ho and the renowned sinologist Hans Frankel, this English translation ofTang calligraphic theorist Sun Qianli's MÊîWî (ca. 648-after 687) Shu pu WiWt, or "Treatise on Calligraphy," and the famous Song literary figure Jiang 354 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. 2, Fall 1997 Kui's JIÉË (ca. 1155-ca. 1221) Xu ShupuWiWiaa, or "Sequel to 'Treatise on Calligraphy ,'" is, no doubt, a timely remedy to the shortage ofwriting on calligraphy in English and may promote new interest in this subject. Although there have been one English and one German translation of the Shu pu, the previous English rendition , published sixty years ago, is radier free, and some phrases difficult to translate have been skipped over. The German translation is highly refined scholarship , but its readership in the English-speaking world is considerably limited. For this reason, Chang and Frankel's translation is not only complete and reliable, but makes the two important Chinese calligraphy treatises accessible to a much larger readership. Completed in 687, the Shu pu discusses a broad range of calligraphic phenomena , including the relationship between a calligrapher's work and his mental state, disposition, and age; the relation between form and spirit in calligraphy; the aesthetic features of different scripts, brush techniques, and the links between a calligrapher's self-expression and the reactions ofhis viewer; the standards of criticism and connoisseurship in calligraphy; and so forth, making it one of the most important theoretical texts in the history of calligraphy. But discussion in this treatise tends to be brief, as the author intends only an outline of aesthetic principles rather...