An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Shufa 書筏

Mar 15, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Shufa 書筏 "The raft of calligraphy" is a sister-work of Huaquan 畫筌, a book on painting. Both were written by Da Chongguan 笪重光 (1623-1692).

The transmitted text of the Shufa has a length of 28 chapters. It discusses important aspects of calligraphy, such as brushwork, the right use of ink, layout and style. It is and important and concise text which reflects the author's profound skills in the art of writing. Da says that many people only knew to start with the brush and "hide the sharp edges" of characters (qi bi cang feng 起筆藏鋒), and were not aware of the difficulty to "retain the brush and bring out the sharp edges of brush strokes" (shou bi chu feng 收筆出鋒). Only with a thorough knowledge in the use of the bafen 八分 style and of the separated-characters grass script (zhangcao 章草), this skill could be mastered. The method of using the brush was lying the the observance of rules, and not in the hardness or softness of wrist and hand.

The Shufa was originally perhaps circulating along with the Huaquan, but the latter is written in very elegant verses, while the language of the Shufa is prosaic and not well polished. Some authors therefore believe that the text of the Shufa is not complete, or was corrupted in the transmission process.

The text is found in the series Zhaodai congshu 昭代叢書, Meixue congshu 美術叢書 and Lidai shufa lunwen xuan 歷代書法論文選.

Cui Shuqiang 崔樹强, Liao Dan 廖丹 (2013). "Da Chongguang Shufa zhong de shi lun yanjiu 笪重光《書筏》中的“勢”論研究", Shuhua yishu 書畫藝術, 2013 (5): 28-30; 2013 (6): 27-29.
Jia Jiaqi 傢佳其 (2019). "Da Chongguang Shufa de lilun jiazhi yu yingxiang tanjiu 笪重光《書筏》的理論價值與影響探究", Mei yu shidai 美與時代, 2019 (10): 19-20.
Song Tingli 宋廷位 (2015). "Da Chongguang Shufa de lilun jiazhi yu yingxiang 笪重光《書筏》的理論價值與影響", Shufa shangping 書法賞評, 2015 (5): 14-17.
Wang Dongling 王冬齡 (1992). "Shufa 書筏", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Meishu 美術 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 731.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 170.
Zhang Qianchao 張潛超 (1996). "Shufa 書筏", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Yishu 藝術卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 545.