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Tower of Transcendence

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Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644) or Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Medium: ink on silk
Calligrapher(s): Zhang Ruitu (1570–1641)

Dimensions: 26.2 cm × 252 cm

“Tower of Transcendence” (Chaoran tai ji) is an essay written by Su Shi (1037–1101) in the eighth year (1075) of the Xining reign (1068–1077) while he served as the prefect of Mizhou (present-day Zhucheng, Shangdong Province). One of his projects was to reconstruct an old tower of the city wall. Receiving the name “Transcendence” (Chaoran) from Su’s brother Su Zhe (1039–1112), the tower became a theme by which Su Shi would explicate his understanding of the Daoist conception of the happiness of transcendence (or detachment). Presenting the essay in pointed characters with flattened constructions by means of a vigorous brush technique, this work of running-cursive script (xingcao shu) calligraphy by Zhang Ruitu (1570–1641) is a classic example of the artist’s mature stage.

Originally from Jinjiang in Fujian Province, Zhang Ruitu was known by his courtesy name (zi) Changgong and by style names (hao) such as Guoting and Ershui. In his official capacity, he achieved the rank of minister in the Ministry of Personnel and grand academician of the Hall of Central Supremacy (Zhongji dian). Apart from his talent for calligraphy, he was also a proficient painter.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu


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