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Wang Xizhi

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  • Born: 321
  • Died: 379
  • Chinese/Japanese: 羲之 (Wáng Xīzhī / Ô Gishi)

Wang Xizhi is traditionally regarded as the greatest calligrapher in Chinese history.

Among his most famous works is the preface to a description of the Orchid Pavilion Gathering he held at his estate on 353/3/3. The gathering has been depicted countless times over in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese painting, and reenacted in gardens throughout the region as well.[1] The "Preface to the Poems Collected from the Orchid Pavilion," known today only from later copies, is not only highly admired as a central element of the canon of Chinese calligraphy, but was so prized by Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty (r. 626-649) that he is said to have been buried with the original.

Xizhi's two sons are also famed canonical calligraphers. All three, father and sons, are said to have been strongly influenced by Daoism, and to have striven to achieve naturalism - a connection to the fundamental Way of Nature - in their calligraphy. Wang Xizhi is said to have destroyed all of the work he produced before age fifty, out of disappointment in their quality; whether this is true or not, it is the case that none of his original works survive today, and are only known from copies from the Song Dynasty and later.

References

  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 94.
  1. Chi Xiao, Chinese Garden as Lyric Enclave, Center for Chinese Studies, Univ. of Michigan (2001), 89.
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