Wang Xizhi - King of Chinese calligraphy
Wang Xizhi (32l - 379) is the most outstanding calligrapher in
Chinese history, unsurpassed over l,600 years. His handwriting
fascinated Li Shimin (the emperor during the Tang Dynasty) who
described his words as "floating clouds and frightened dragons".
How did he manage such a great achievement?
When he was young, he was slow and dull. No genius could be seen. In fact, he wrote more poorly than the other children. But his diligence in later years left others far behind. Whenever he took up his brush, he would concentrate so hard that he would forget about eating and his sorrows. Even when he was eating, reading or walking, he would think about the size and structure of the words and how to wield the pen. He would write with his finger. So eventually all of his clothes and books were worn out by his constant strokes. Once he forgot to have his meal while he was practising. So his dish was put on his desk. Not knowing what he was doing, he
dipped his bun into the ink and ate with great relish, his mouth blackened.
As he often washed his ink slab in the pond, the water became black, hence the name" Black Pond". Nowadays, the place in which he used to live (in Zhe Jiang and Jiangxi Provinces) became of historical interest. Although we cannot prove their validity, we can be certain of his industriousness.
Through strong will, perseverance and dedication for over 10 years, his calligraphy reached its peak. Not only did he assimilate the essence of his predecessors but also launched a new style of calligraphy, emphasizing individual personality, style and mood.
Originally the Wei and Jin period was famous for genius. But
the disintegration of the 400-year long Han Dynasty caused the
breakdown of the Confucianistic social order. In the years of
disaster and turbulence, intellectuals such as the "Seven Geniuses in Jianan" and the "Seven Sages of the Bamboo-Forest" saw through the senselessness of life. They no longer believed in
traditional values and ridiculed all the rules and rituals. In these chaotic times, people had to flee for their lives and escape from disaster. Nothing was controllable - wealth, power, life, feelings,
Confucianism, law and order. Nothing could be trusted or depended upon.
The words in the copybook Wang has left are full of hopelessness and grief. Despairing of this world, Wang later turned to aesthetics, since "beauty" broke away from morality, "lines and
characters" could be free from the constraints of the meaning. It was Wang Xizhi who made Chinese calligraphy reach an artistic niveau, the only highly developed plastic art in the world.