An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Haiyue mingyan 海嶽名言

Mar 8, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Haiyue mingyan 海嶽名言 "Famous words about sea and mountains" is a critical book on calligraphy. The 25 brief chapters or rather statements were compiled by disciples of the famous artist Mi Fu 米芾 (1051-1107) according to his oral instructions.

It can be said that Mi Fu admired the natural elegance of ancient paintings from the Wei 曹魏 (220-265) and Jin 晉 (265-420) periods, while he apparently had only disrespective words for many of the famous masters of the Tang 唐 (618-907) and the early Song period 宋 (960-1279). He directly says that Cai Jing 蔡京 (1047-1126) "could not master the brush" (bu de bi 不得筆), that Cai Bian 蔡卞 (1048-1117) "mastered it but missed rhythm" (de bi er fa yi yun 得筆而乏逸韻), that Cai Xiang 蔡襄 (1012-1067) "exerted force on the characters" (le zi 勒字), that Shen Liao 沈遼 (1032-1085) "stringed them up" (pai zi 排字), Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅 (1045-1105) "sketched characters" (miao zi 描字), and Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037-1101) merely "painted them" (hua zi 畫字). This leaves quite an image of arrogance displayed by Mi, even if he admitted that Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢 (557-641), Yu Shinan 虞世南 (558–638), Cai Xiang or Huang Tingjian had immense skills in their use of using the brush and opened new ways of painting by disclosing unprecedented subtlety in their artworks.

Some phrases give an insight into Mi Fu's own concepts of calligraphy, namely that "big" (complex) characters should be like "smaller" (simple) ones, and vice versa, and that big characters should provide the smaller ones with the power of brushstrokes in order to receive a balanced picture (bi shi bei quan 筆勢備全), while smaller characters could contribute strength, framework and spirit (jingu shenqi 筋骨神氣). This would create an overall picture of stability, without improper protrusions, meagerness, or luxuriance.

The text is included in the series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Wangshi shuhua yuan 王氏書畫苑, Shuofu 說郛, Yanyi zhilin 鹽邑志林, Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Hengshancaotang congshu 橫山草堂叢書, Hubei xianzheng yishu 湖北先正遺書, Meishu conshu 美術叢書 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初篇.

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Pan Jinzhao 潘金召 (2022). "Cong Haiyue mingyan zhong kuitan Mi Fu shuxue sixiang 從《海嶽名言》中窺探米芾書學思想", Shuhua shijie 書畫世界, 2022 (2): 89-92.
Zhang Tiangong 張天弓 (2018). "Mi Fu Haiyue mingyn zhong de shua shenmei biaozhun: Lun gudai shufa shenmei biaozhun de goujia 米芾《海嶽名言》中的書法審美標準——論古代書法審美標準的構架", Shufa yanjiu 書法研究, 2018 (3): 5-26.