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Offering Oysters (Xianhao tie) is included in Su Shi’s Exemplary Calligraphy from the Hall of Evening Incense (Wanxiang tang Su tie) engraved by Chen Jiru (1558–1639). The work is a letter written by Su Shi (1037–1101) from Danzhou to his son Su Guo (1072–1123) in the second year (1099) of the Yuanfu reign (1098–1100) during the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127). The content deals with the abundance of Hainan’s oysters, which the father exhorts his son to keep secret as to prevent others from requesting official exile on Hainan and sharing in the seafood bounty. The colloquial and humorous language of the text reflects Su Shi’s passionate, optimistic view of life. Written near the end of his life, the work has matured, elegant strokes in fully developed characters with a supple stability. Having a natural and smooth calligraphic aesthetic with variations in the strokes, it has a bold, carefree style and appears to have been written in one breath.
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Kang Xiaolu