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Stele with Encomium on a Painting of Dongfang

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Period: Tang dynasty (618–906), Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Medium: ink, paper
Format: rubbing, album

Date: Tang dynasty (618–906), Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
Calligrapher(s): Yan Zhenqing (709–785)

Dimensions: each leaf: 32 cm × 33 cm

Stele with Encomium on a Painting of Dongfang (Dongfang huazan bei) was erected in the thirteenth year (754) of the Tianbao reign (742–756) during the Tang dynasty (618–906). The inscription is a fine example of Yan Zhenqing’s (709–785) regular script (kai) calligraphy at middle age. This featured work is a rubbing of the stele inscription made at the beginning of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Upon reaching midlife, Su Shi (1037–1101) modeled much of his running (xing) and regular script calligraphy after that of Yan. Su once praised the work of Yan saying, “Of all the stele inscriptions produced by Yan, the Duke of Lu (i.e., Yan Zhenqing) in his lifetime, only Encomium on the Painting of Dongfang Shuo is elegant with a robust energy; the dense yet orderly arrangement of characters does not cause it to lose beauty.” The large-regular script (kai) inscriptions for Record for the Pavilion of Abundant Pleasure (Fengle ting ji) and Record for the Old Drunkard’s Pavilion (Zuiweng ting ji) were fashioned after the calligraphic method seen on this stele.

With his ancestral home in Langya (present-day Linyi, Shandong Province), the renowned Tang-dynasty calligrapher Yan Zhenqing went by the courtesy name (zi) Qingchen. In his official capacity, he served as minister in the Ministry of Personnel and grand preceptor of the heir apparent. He was granted the title Commandery Duke of Lu, which led to his more commonly known designation “Yan, the Duke of Lu”.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu


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