During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a new movement arose in calligraphy. Variously called the Stele School, School of Stone and Metal, or Epigraphic School, this movement valued types of calligraphy that previously had been ignored or looked down on, such as inscriptions in stone and bronze by unknown writers, especially from the Han dynasty (206 b.c.–a.d. 220) and earlier. To the Epigraphic School, these ancient traces were the missing links to an untold history of calligraphy.
In the distant past the Epigraphic School found calligraphy that looked very different from the canonical models their teachers had studied and taught. They discovered script types that had fallen out of regular use over the millennia, written in styles that were bold and unadorned, especially when compared to the suave sophistication of recent masters such as Zhao Mengfu and Dong Qichang. It was this raw power, along with a sense of historical importance, that drew the Epigraphic School scholars to these long-forgotten models.