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Zhao Mengfu - The Greatest Scholarly Artist of Yuan Dynasty

Portrait of Zhao Mengfu
The Representative Calligraphic
Masterpiece of Zhao Mengfu
, whose calligraphy works
were regarded as the
"Shen Pin" or" Fantastic Level
of Art Value". However, well-known
as the descendant of Song Dynasty
and the official of Yuan Dynasty
, Zhao Mengfu was a controversial
figure in Chines culture history
(click for a larger picture)
Chinese calligraphy underwent great developments in the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1367). Zhao Mengfu and Xian Yushu, who advocated innovations on the basis of learning from the predecessors, put an end to the decadent calligraphy style since the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) and created new calligraphy style of the Yuan Dynasty. In the Yuan Dynasty the regular script and the cursive hand made prominent achievements, while the seal character, official script and other styles of calligraphy also were developed to some degree.

Among the calligraphy theory books,Yanjibelongs to a general survey;Explore the Essence of Calligraphyby Su Lin,Addendum to Shujingby Lu Zong andFashukaoby Sheng Ximing belong to a series; andKnacks for Members of the Imperial Academyby Chen Duo,Xue'an Ziyao, Eight Skills of Xue'an Yongziand other works by Shi Puguang focused on calligraphy skills. In addition, many calligraphy theories are included in prefaces and postscripts of calligraphic works by Zhao Mengfu, Xian Yushu, Deng Wenyuan, Yu Ji, Ke Jiusi and other calligraphers.

Zhao Menfu (1254-1322) was a descendent of a Song (960-1279) imperial family. Zhao, who was gifted with a very retentive memory, took office as theSihucanjunof Zhenzhou when he was only 14 years old. After the downfall of the Southern Song Dynasty Zhao stepped down from the political stage and devoted himself to reading, and later served the Mongol-established Yuan Empire. Zhao was an honest and upright official who always spoke directlyand never cringed, even though he once was an official of the Song Dynasty. A well-learned scholar, Zhao's calligraphy works, paintings, poems and prose were also of a high artistic level, with representative works such asThe Annotation of the Collection of Ancient Texts, QinyuanandYueyuan. The emperor of the Yuan once comparedhim with Li Bai of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) and Su Shi of the Song Dynasty.

Zhao was adept in many styles of calligraphy, such as seal character, official script, running script and the cursive hand, and he also created his own style, Zhaoti. Zhao exerted a significant influence on the calligraphy circle of the Ming and Qing dynasties (1644-1911). Xian Yushu, who was an expert in regular script, running script and cursive hand, also developed his own style characterized by magnificent strokes. Zhao, Xian, as well as Deng Wenyuan, were regarded as the Three Great Calligraphers of the Yuan Dynasty.

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