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Chinese Literature
Shushi 書史 "A History of Calligraphy"


The Shushi 書史 "A history of calligraphy" is a book on calligraphy written by the Song period 宋 (960-1279) master Mi Fu 米芾. It critically described the calligraphies of ancient masters from the Western Jin 西晉 (265-316) to the Five Dynasties 五代 (907-960) periods. Yet is also explains which kinds of paper were used and how calligraphies were mounted and stored. Mi Fu gives a detailed account on the history of calligraphy and analyses how to discern an old original from a forgery, or how to identify a certain master from his style. This was very important because many calligraphies had been wrongly attributed to other masters, like one calligraphy owned by Wei Tai 魏泰 to whom it was suggested that it might be an oeuvre by Yu Shinan 虞世南, yet Mi Fu proved that it was a product of the Monk Zhiyong 智永. There were other calligraphies attributed to Zhiyong that were in fact products of Zhong Shaojing 鐘紹京 or Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢. Mi Fu analyses the origin of the calligraphy Huang Su Huangtingjing 黃素黃庭經 and compares Wang Xizhi's 王羲之 Huang Mazhi shiyu tie 黃麻紙十余帖 with Ouyang Xun's Gushi shiyu tie 故事十余帖 and Zhang Dian's 張顛 Juantie yijuan qiba zhang 絹帖一卷七八張. Mi Fu's book is a very reliable source and gives an excellent impression about the methods by which Song period connoisseurs evaluated ancient art works. Mi says in the last part of his book that while paintings can be copied (mo 摹), this is hardly possible for calligraphies. Most unsuccessful, he says, is the forging of seals. He then adds an interesting paragraph about fortune-telling for state offices with the help of private seals (xiangyinfa 相印法).
The Shushi is included in the collectanea Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Shuxue huibian 書學彙編, Wangshi shuhua yuan 王氏書畫苑本, Shuofu 說郛, Hubei xianzheng yishu 湖北先正遺書, Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Meishu congshu 美術叢書.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1802. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

September 3, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail