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Entitled Elegant Gathering in the Western Garden (Xiyuan yaji ji), this work of cursive script (cao shu) calligraphy preserves a record attributed to Mi Fu (1051–1107) of a gathering of sixteen literati—including Su Shi (1037–1101), Huang Tingjian (1045–1105), and Mi Fu—at the western garden in the official residence of Wang Shen (ca. 1048–after 1104) during the Yuanyou reign (1086–1094). Zhu Da (1626–1705) inscribed the work at the age of sixty-three (in sui) while he pursued the art of Jin dynasty (265–420) calligraphers—such as Wang Xizhi (303–361) and Wang Xianzhi (344–386)—and meticulously sought change. Indeed, the work marks the inception of the calligraphic style of Zhu’s later years.
From Nanchang in Jiangxi Province, Zhu Da was known by his courtesy name (zi) Ren’an and by his later style name (hao) Bada Shanren. He was a descendent of the imperial family of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Having lived as a monk after the conquest of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911), he is known as one of the “Four Monks of the Early-Qing”. His calligraphy and paintings have deeply influenced freehand painting in the modern era.
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu