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T'ang Studies 12 (1994) The Artistic Achievement and Historical Position of Huai-su·s Draft-Script Calligraphy HO CH'ING-KU Wm1:iSHENSI NORMAL UNNERSITY, SIAN Translated by Charles Holcombe UNIVERSITY OF NORTHERN IOWA Huai-su 'I~*was a great T'ang-dynasty master of draft-script (ts'ao-shu 1j[ii), equal in reputation to Chang Hsii 5;&11f! (early 8th century). He was from Ling-ling ~~ county, Hunan, and was born in 737. It is unclear when he died, but we know that as late as 799 works of his calligraphy were still making their appearance. His principal calligraphic activity fell between 766 and 799, in the umidT 'ang" period. Following the disturbances of An Lu-shan and ShihSsu -ming, the T'ang dynasty turned from prosperity to decay, and the ruling bloc grew daily more corrupt. Frontier garrisons exercising autonomous power gradually appeared, warfare was frequent, and the people had little on which to live. But, because of the prolonged and rich cultural accumulation of the early and high T'ang, the arts of poetry and song, painting and calligraphy continued to develop. After the death of Chang Hsu, the great calligrapher who set the style for his generation, those who continued and developed his art included the eminent k'ai-shu twit expert Yen Chen-ch'ing ~~YNP (709-785)and the eminent ts'ao-shu expert and Buddhist monk Huaisuo This essay will restrict itself to an investigation of Huai-su's draft-script art. I. THE EVOLUTION OF HUAI-SU'S DRAFT-SCRIPT STYLE The evolution of Huai-su's ts'ao-shu style can generally be divided into three periods. Prior to his twenty-ninth year, Huai-su painstakingly practiced his basic art. From youth he was devoted to calligraphy. It is said that he went constantly to the nearby pond to mix ink, and was extraordinarily demanding of himself: more than 97 Ho: Huai-su's Calligraphy ten-thousand palm-leaves were provided for him as writing material , he wore out two lacquered tableboards, and the pile of his discarded brushes was referred to as the "brush cemetery." At this time he studied the regular style of Chung Yu JI"f- (3rd century), and the cursive (hsing fJ) and draft-styles of Wang Hsi-chih .:E~z (309-c. 365) and Wang Hsien-chih .:Emz (344-388). Although he formally submitted to Wu T'ung ,~mas teacher, the lessons that Wu T'ung required of him included copying the models of the two Wangs. For this period we know of no regular body ~f production, but most calligraphers regard Huai-su's Lun-shu t'ieh illfB:W:flJ.S ["The Copybook On Calligraphy"; see Figure 11] as representative of this early period. His use of the brush strictly maintains the Wei-Chin (3rd-4th centuries) standards, and you can see the uncommon effort of his early years to assimilate the traditional style of the two Wangs. From age thirty to age fifty was the period when he formed his own unique style. At this time he learned Chang Hsii's "wild-draft" brush-method from Yen Chen-ch'ing, mixed it with Chang Po-ying's 51HB~"modem-draft," Wang Hsien-chih's ''broken-body,'' and also brought the seal-script brush-method into the draft style, forming his own lean and strong, swirling and free script that was wild but did not depart from the rules. Representative works of this period include the unrestrained and virile, sword-raised and crossbow-drawn Tzu-hsii t'ieh E1il&~li ("Self-Introduction Copybook"; see Figure 2), and the spiritually soaring, spare and penetrating Ssu-shih-erh-chang ching t'ieh R!I+=1iI~~t!i ("Copybook on the Sutra in 42 Sections"; see Figure 3). All are in an unusual and lively hand, each thoroughly beautiful. From age fifty-one to age sixty-three the man and his calligraphy both grew old. At this time he was "entirely able in the old method, and had a surplus in the new" (in the words of the poet Tai Shu-lun ~~f1fB [732-789]), and, moreover, he reached the point where he was able to "follow what...


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