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Past exhibition

Permanent Exhibition
A Space for Brush and Ink: Appreciating Painting and Calligraphy in the National Palace Museum Collection
This exhibition presents a systematic introduction to the developments in Chinese painting and calligraphy using artworks from the ages in the National Palace Museum collection. However, due to the fragile nature of paper and silk used for most classic works of painting and calligraphy, they can only be displayed for a maximum of about three months and must then be rotated with others.

The paintings down through the ages in the National Palace Museum are generally mounted in hanging scroll, handscroll, album leaf, and fan format. As for their contents, the three major categories are figures, birds and flowers, and landscapes.
Up to the mid-Tang period (8th century), figure painting dominated with representative artists including Gu Kaizhi of the Eastern Jin and Wu Daozi of the Tang. In the Five Dynasties period (10th c.), landscape and bird-and-flower subjects gradually replaced figure painting in central importance. In bird-and-flower painting, Huang Quan’s “outline” manner in the Western Shu and Xu Xi’s “boneless (wash)” style of the Southern Tang became standards for later generations, while in landscape painting such masters as Jing Hao and Guan Tong represented northern China with Dong Yuan and Juran for the south.
In the Song dynasty (960-1279), the monumental compositions by Fan Kuan, Guo Xi, and Li Tang brought landscape painting to a pinnacle. And the Southern Song Painting Academy in particular, with unprecedented patronage of the court, created classic bird-and-flower works of refinement along with elegant and magnificent figure paintings. Landscape painting at this time emphasized both the observation of nature and the incorporation of poetic ideas, the use of blank space and one-corner compositions further highlighting their lyricism and symbolism.
In the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), Zhao Mengfu’s “calligraphy suited to painting” followed such Song dynasty scholars as Su Shi and Mi Fu, who lodged their feelings in “painting from the heart,”and expanded literati painting in a new direction beyond the pursuit of “formal likeness” in art. This continued with the rich and diversified styles of the “Four Masters of the Yuan Dynasty” (Huang Gongwang, Wu Zhen, Ni Zan, Wang Meng) to become paradigms for literati painting.
Ming dynasty (1368-1644) painting schools were often characterized by regional differences, such as the fine and elegant “Wu School” style in the Suzhou area and the bold and coarse ink manner of the “Zhe School” in the Zhejiang and Fujian region, each having its own characteristics. Dong Qichang of the “Songjiang School” in the late Ming, with his great knowledge about art, established a historical view of styles divided into an oppositional binary system and had a major influence on later generations. Afterwards, the “Four Wangs of the Early Qing Dynasty” (Wang Shimin, Wang Jian, Wang Hui, Wang Yuanqi) followed Dong’s “Southern” lineage and formed the “Orthodox School” of painting.
The Qing dynasty (1644-1911) court, where the “Orthodox School” flourished, also encouraged European methods of painting brought by missionaries from the West, resulting in chiaroscuro and perspective becoming new tools for reinventing the Chinese painting tradition. Outside the court, some painters who flourished in the city of Yangzhou were labeled as “eccentric and odd.” Neither brushwork nor forms in their works were orthodox, making these painters as forerunners for later generations seeking change and transformation in Chinese art.

The distinctive forms, styles, and lines of Chinese characters, along with rendering them in movements of the brush laden with ink, together represent a unique aspect of Chinese art. Over time, various scripts naturally evolved, including large and small seal, clerical, cursive, running, and standard.
The period of the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BCE-220) was crucial to the history of Chinese calligraphy. From the oracle bone script engraved on the bones and shells of animals and turtles to the inscriptions cast on bronze bells and vessels, the wide range of large seal and stone drum scripts in ancient times became unified into a standardized form known as small seal script at this period. For the expediency of writing, the straight and even lines of clerical script then gradually replaced small seal script to become the universal method of writing in the Han dynasty.
Clerical script continued to evolve, leading to the formation of cursive, running, and standard scripts. After the Six Dynasties period (220-589), mixed and transitional styles appeared. A prototype of cursive script, the quickest form of writing, is found on bamboo slips of the early Han dynasty. Standard script, representing an evolution of the regular forms and strokes in clerical script, features characters that are upright and easy to read. Running script, which falls in between the two, is more fluid than standard but easier to discern than cursive script. Running script is also the most practical of them and flourished especially in the Jin dynasty, Wang Xizhi’s mature works being the most representative form of this writing.
Calligraphy in the Sui and Tang dynasties period (581-907) followed the rigorous manner of Wei dynasty steles. It was also a time of political unification, bringing calligraphy styles of the north and south together as brushwork methods became increasingly complete. Standard script was the universal form and Yan Zhenqing its great synthesizer. Yan Zhenqing in his running script also incorporated the spirit and brushwork of such cursive-script masters as Zhang Xu and Huaisu. It likewise includes the manner and essence of Wei-Jin and Sui-Tang calligraphy, putting Yan Zhenqing on equal terms with Wang Xizhi.
Starting from the Song dynasty (960-1279), calligraphers not only continued with tradition, they also actively sought personal forms of expression. The “Four Masters of the Song Dynasty” (Su Shi, Huang Tingjian, Mi Fu, Cai Xiang) were mostly known for their individual styles of running script.
Calligraphers of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), in turning to the past and advocating revivalism, further developed the classical norms of Jin and Tang calligraphy. Zhao Mengfu’s standard script was particularly refined, ranking him among the masters of this type of writing along with Ouyang Xun, Yan Zhenqing, and Liu Gongquan of the Tang dynasty.
Among the diverse manners in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), the elegant freedom of semi-cursive script allowed calligraphers to express themselves even further. Examples include the “Three Masters of Wu (Suzhou)” (Zhu Yunming, Wen Zhengming, Wang Chong) and “Dong (Qichang) of the South and Wang (Duo) of the North.” All were calligraphers with their individual ways that contrasted with those more rigorously following the methods of tradition.
Starting in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), calligraphy increasingly was influenced by evidential learning and researching the past. Such studies and new discoveries offered inspiration for both clerical and seal script, which in turn affected how lines were used in standard and running scripts. Thus was the gate to so-called “Stele Studies” opened, ushering in a new era for Chinese calligraphy.
Exhibition Information
  • Event Date Permanent Exhibition
  • Location 2F S203
Han Dynasty
Fragment of the Xiping Stele
        The “Xiping Stele” was erected sometime after the second year of the Xiping reign period under Eastern Han dynasty emperor Lingdi (173). The identity of the person whose grave it stood at is unknown, and only the left side of the middle portion of the inscription remains. The remaining fragment, which contains seventy-three characters in seven columns, is currently held in Han and Wei Dynasties Stele Exhibition Hall in Shandong province in China. Its calligraphy was written in classic Han dynasty clerical script (lishu), with clearly defined brushstrokes and a style that is staid and gentle.
        To the left of the stele’s original text are inscriptions by Weng Fanggang (1733-1818) and Ruan Yuan that record their impressions as they appraised the stele fragment. These inscriptions reflect the import that people during the Qing dynasty placed upon seeking out stelae and ascertaining their origins. 
Su Shi, Song dynasty
Calligraphic Colophon
        Su Shi (1037-1101), who had the style name Zizhan and the sobriquet Dongpo, was from Meishan in Sichuan province. He is considered one of the four great Song dynasty masters of calligraphy, alongside Huang Tingjian , Mi Fu , and Cai Xiang.
        Su wrote this piece to express his feelings after reading poetry by Chen Ji (?-1049) in the fourth year of the Yuanfeng reign period under Northern Song dynasty emperor Shenzong (1081), when he was living in exile in Huangzhou. The brushwork is steady and stable, yielding writing with “ample flesh and strong bones.” The characters’ structures have expansiveness and poise; this classical elegance shows the strong influence of Wei and Jin dynasties styles of small regular script (xiaokai) calligraphy.
Dong Qichang, Ming dynasty
Lu Chang’s Poetry in Calligraphy
        Dong Qichang (1555-1636) had the style name Xuanzai and the sobriquet Sibai. A native of Huating in Jiangsu province, he obtained the rank of presented scholar (jinshi) in the imperial examinations in the seventeenth year of the Wanli reign period under Ming dynasty emperor Shenzong (1589). He was posthumously given the name Wenmin.
        This piece is a transcription of “Surprised by Snow,” a quatrain with five characters per line written by the Tang dynasty poety Lu Chang (fl. 9th century), brushed in cursive (caoshu) atop damask. The overall calligraphic effect is very different from writing atop paper. The expansions and contractions of the brush are unconstrained, allowing for an elegant, crisp energy. This piece also reflects the particular attention that Dong Qichang paid to calligraphic media.
Wu Jingheng, Republican era
A Treasure in Ink
        Wu Jingheng (1865-1953), of Wujin in Jiangsu province, had the given name Tiao and the style name Zhihui. He is named alongside Hu Hanmin, Tan Yankai, and Yu Youren as one of the four great Republican era calligraphers.
        This piece is a study of the “Ten Character Inscription for the Tomb of Jizi Written by Confucius,” which reads: “Here Lies the Grave of the Gentleman Wu of Yanling.” Wu Jingheng altered the features of the characters in the original, so that their long, narrow structures became rectilinear. He wrote the calligraphy in a manner that emphasizes the brush’s functionality, the abundance of transformations emerging from the lifting and pressing of its bristles instilling the piece with rustic classicism. 
Gu An & Ni Zan, Yuan dynasty
An Ancient Tree, Bamboo, and a Stone
        This work’s ancient tree and slender bamboo were originally painted collaboratively by Gu An (fl. 14th century) and Zhang Shen (fl. late 14th century) at the behest of a hermit named Tongxuan. The painting was also emblazoned with poetry written in Zhang Shen and Yang Weizhen’s (1296-1370) hands. Ni Zan added the stone and a poetic verse with five characters per line during the sixth year of the Hongwu reign period under the Ming dynasty’s founding emperor (1373).
        Simple brushwork was used throughout this piece, allowing emphasis to fall upon the display of brush and ink’s inherent charms. The poetic, calligraphic, and painted elements shimmer against one another, increasing the work’s sense of elegance and refinement.
Wen Zhengming, Ming dynasty
After Zhao Bosu’s “Latter Ode on the Red Cliffs”
        Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), who hailed from Changzhou (present day Suzhou), was one of the four masters of the Ming dynasty.
        The theme of this scroll is the Song dynasty literatus Su Shi’s (1037-1101) poetic essay, “Latter Ode on the Red Cliffs.” A light blue-green color scheme infuses the entire painting, which depicts the tale of Su and his friends’ second excursion by boat to the Red Cliffs. Although this piece is said to be a copy of Zhao Bosu’s work, its rhythmic variety of densely overlapping rocks and the painting techniques used to render the trees’ branches and leaves are entirely reflective of Wen Zhengming’s own style. He finished the work in his seventy-ninth year
Giuseppe Castiglione (Lang Shining), Qing dynasty
Immortal Blossoms, Everlasting Spring
        Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766), whose Chinese name was Lang Shining, was an Italian brother of the Jesuit order who lived in China during the reigns of Qing dynasty emperors Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong. He served as a court painter for all three emperors.
        This album consists of depictions of flowers, plants, and birds. The pieces were painted in the traditional Chinese style, but they boast the addition of occidental techniques for rendering shading and perspective, as well as pigments native to the west. Not only are the works’ color schemes magnificent, their compositions are highly original, and the forms and attitudes given to their avian subjects break free from the molds of convention. The album is a rare masterpiece that blended eastern and western methods of painting.
Fu Chuan-fu, Republican era
Duigao Peak
        Fu Chuan-fu (1910-2007), a native of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, came to Taiwan in 1949. He had a tremendous influence in the art world of his day.
        Fu developed new landscape painting techniques in order to express the roiling oceans of cloud that are ever-present in Taiwan’s mountainous scenery. This piece makes use of his “fissured” texture strokes and “blotted wash” method to bring the mountains of Alishan in southern Taiwan to life. Fu’s establishment of a unique Taiwanese school of landscape painting earned him the moniker “spokesman for Formosa’s rivers and mountains.” This piece was donated to the NPM by Fu Chuan-fu’s family.