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Period: Northern Song dynasty (960–1127)
Medium: ink on paper
Format: album leaf

Calligrapher(s): Mi Fu (1051–1107)

Dimensions: 27.4 cm × 32.4 cm

Bearing the title Masterpiece (Shengzhi tie), this work of exemplary cursive script (cao shu) calligraphy is a letter written by Mi Fu (1051–1107) to his friend Cai Zhao (d. 1119). He used another character read Fu in this work’s signature, which indicates it was written before his forty-first birthday (in sui).

From Taiyuan in Shanxi Province, Mi Fu is also known by his courtesy name (zi) Yuanzhang. A renowned calligrapher, painter, and collector of the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127), he along with Su Shi (1037–1101), Huang Tingjian (1045–1105), and Cai Xiang (1012–1067) are honored as the Four Masters of the Song dynasty. His landscapes are known as the “Clouds and Mountains of Mi”. Mi and Su had a deep friendship, and he maintained his respect for Su all his life.

From Runzhou in Danyang (in Jiangsu Province), Cai Zhao was known by his courtesy name Tianqi. His early years were spent under the guidance of Wang Anshi (1021–1086), but he later followed after Su Shi and developed a prestigious reputation. He was a talented painter of landscapes and figures.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu

 

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