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Xie An was a Jin dynasty (265-420) statesman who was born into a prestigious family. In his early years, he rejected government commissions, led a life of wandering with several friends including the master calligrapher Wang Xizhi (303-361, or 321-379), and created many literary works. He reentered government service in his forties and served in several posts including Grand Protector (taishou) of Wuxing and Minister of Personnel (libu shangshu). He led the Jin dynasty through a major military crisis by triumphing over the Former Qin (351-394) emperor Fu Jian's army in the Battle of the Fei River in 383. He was also an accomplished calligrapher. In his official biography, he was praised as being "particularly proficient in running script”.
The piece is also called A Letter Written on the Fifth of the Eighth Lunar Month. Xie An wrote this letter in sympathy for the death of a certain Zhonglang. The reserved and refined style is a perfect embodiment of the calligrapher's personality. Some researchers, having studied the ink and paper, concluded that it is a Song dynasty (960-1279) copy of the original. A seal reading "virtue and longevity” (deshou) indicates that it belonged to the imperial collection of the Emperor Gaozong (r. 1127-1162) of the Southern Song (1127-1279). It was mounted in the same album with Wang Xizhi's After Rain, and later entered the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) imperial collection.