An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Dunyin shuyao 鈍吟書要

May 12, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Dunyin shuyao 鈍吟書要 "Important [facts] on calligraphy from the [Studio] of Dull Poetry" is a short book on calligraphy written during the early Qing period 清 (1644-1911) by Feng Ban 馮班 (1602-1671), courtesy name Dingyuan 定遠, style Dunyin Laoren 鈍吟老人, from Changshu 常熟, Jiangsu. He was a good poet and calligrapher and also wrote the text Dunyin zalu 鈍吟雜錄. His collected writings are called Dingyuan ji 定遠集 and Dunyin ji 鈍吟集.

The book comments on the strengths and weaknesses of earlier calligraphers and their works, and also expounds Feng's own experiences of learning calligraphy. The book is thus a concise treatise with many unique insights.

It points out, for instance, that the study of calligraphy should begin with the structure of characters, and only when these are apprehended, the right use of the brush can be learnt. Structures of characters include the square frame (jianjia 間架) as seen in stone inscriptions, while the right application of brush strokes cannot be done without constant practical training. Feng was of the opinion that masters of the Jin period 晉 (265-420) like Wang Xizhi 王羲之 (303-361) used structural frames in a reasonable way (li 理), while Tang-period 唐 (618-907) artists like Yan Zhenqing 顏真卿 (709-785) or Liu Gongquan 柳公權 (778-875) used them as strict rules (fa 法), and masters of the Song period 宋 (960-1279) according to their meaning (yi 意).

Wang Jingxian 王靖憲 (1992). "Dunyin shuyao 鈍吟書要", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Meishu 美術 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 189.