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A native of Kuaiji (today's Shaoxing, Zhejiang province), Zhao Zhiqian earned the juren degree in 1859, and served as County Magistrate of Poyang and Fengxin, Jiangxi province. Skilled in seal cutting, he was adept in epigraphy. As one of the forerunners of the "Shanghai school”, Zhao was also proficient in calligraphy and painting, not only highly admired by his contemporaries, but also exerting considerable influence over art circles in modern times.
This work, created for Zhao's friend, a certain "Yizhai”, is an excerpt of Hasty Writings by Shi You of the Western Han dynasty (207 BCE-25 CE). Zhao followed the calligraphic style of Deng Shiru (1743-1805), and also incorporated into his calligraphy that of the stone-tablet inscriptions of the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534). With simple and vigorous brushwork, neatly structured characters, and properly controlled force, the entire work is imposing, dignified and intense.