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New Ideas, Exceptional Forms: A Special Exhibition on the Works of Five Calligraphers of the Late Ming and Early Qing Dynasties

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Location:Hall of Martial Valor (Wuying dian)

Dates: 2016-04-30 through 2016-06-30

This special exhibition displays the works of five renowned calligraphers of the late Ming dynasty: Zhang Ruitu (1570-1641), Huang Daozhou (1585-1646), Ni Yuanlu (1593-1644), Wang Duo (1592-1652) and Fu Shan (1607-1684). These five are often mentioned together in the study of art history.

     Before the ascent of these five calligraphers, the classically elegant style of Dong Qichang dominated Ming calligraphic circles. The increasing prevalence of Dong's style, however, made a reaction inevitable, and new aesthetic ideas began to sprout. Fu Shan embodied these new ideas, declaring that he "would rather [his work] be unskilled than artful, would rather it be ugly than prettified". With such ideals, calligraphic style was radically transformed, abandoning pure aestheticism.

     The late Ming dynasty saw court politics sink lower than ever before, while society fell into chaos. The final result was the dynasty's overthrow. Though different in their personalities, none of the five escaped the frustrations and psychological scars of their turbulent era. Thus their calligraphic works are entirely different from those written in earlier "times of peace and plenty" and the viewer feels the calligraphers' pain in their works.  New ideas in the harsh political atmosphere of the late Ming and early Qing therefore produced an exceptional style of the running-cursive script. Hence the name of this exhibition: "New Ideas, Exceptional Forms".

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