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Chinese Literature
Xuanhe shupu 宣和書譜 "Notes on Calligraphy from the Xuanhe Reign"


The Xuanhe shupu 宣和書譜 "Notes on calligraphy from the Xuanhe reign" is a treatise on calligraphy written during the Xuanhe reign (1119-1125) of Emperor Huizong 宋徽宗 of the Song dynasty 宋 (960-1279). The book whose author is not known, describes calligraphies owned by the palace treasury (neifu 內府). The 20 juan "scrolls" long book is arranged according to calligraphic styles and covers the seal script (zhuanshu 篆書), chancery script (lishu 隸書), standard script (zhengshu 正書), cursive "running script" (xingshu 行書), super-cursive "grass script" (caoshu 草書), and the wide bafen style 八分 of the standard script. Each style is introduced by a short chapter, and the discussed oeuvres are arranged chronologically. For each calligrapher, a short biography is presented and a list of calligraphies, and the particular master is rated by his quality. Part of the book focuses on contemporary calligraphers like Cai Jing 蔡京, Cai Bian 蔡卞 or Mi Fu 米芾, so that it might be assumed that these took part in the compilation. The head chapter describes calligraphies written by emperors from the Jin 晉 (265-420) to the Later Zhou dynasty 後周 (951-960), like those of Emperor Taizong 唐太宗 (r. 626-649) and Emperor Xuanzong 唐玄宗 (r. 712-755) from the Tang dynasty 唐 (618-907) . The numbers of the calligraphies owned by the palace treasury amounted to the thousands, so that the Xuanhe shupu only includes selected numbers, like 243 calligraphies by Wang Xizhi 王羲之 from the Jin period, 89 by his relative Wang Xianzhi 王獻之, or 28 works by Yan Zhenqing 顏真卿 from the Tang period. The text of the Xuanhe shupu is clear and detailed, and it quotes from a lot of books that are otherwise lost, which makes it a very important source for the history of calligraphy, collecting and connoisseurship. There is a sister-book to this book, the painting treatise Xuanhe huapu 宣和畫譜.
It is included in the collectanea Jindai mishu 津逮秘書, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討原, Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編. In 1984 the Shanghai shuhua press 上海書畫出版社出版 published a modern annotated edition compiled by Gu Yi 顧逸.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1803. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

September 3, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail