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A native of Huating (today's Songjiang, Shanghai), Shen Du failed his attempt at the Imperial Examination during the Hongwu reign (1368-1398). Later, during the Yongle reign (1403-1424), he managed to enter the Hanlin Academy by virtue of his accomplishment in calligraphy. The Emperor showed him marked affection and summoned him to work in the court almost on a daily basis. He inscribed edicts, documents to be preserved in the Imperial Archives (mifu), and letters to vassal states under imperial order. Excelling at a great variety of scripts, he was especially good at regular script. Outstanding in his era, Shen's calligraphy features upright, square characters with strong compositions. He is regarded as an ornament to early Ming-dynasty calligraphers writing in cabinet script, or chancellor script (taige ti). He and his brother Shen Can are called the "Two Shens”.
This album leaf is an inscription about a certain Studio of Humility as Benefit (Qianyi zhai). The handsome and graceful characters are all rendered in typical cabinet script with smooth and relaxed brush strokes.