Yelü Chucai (Chinese, 1190–1244)
Handscroll; ink on paper
21 columns in regular script; 14 3/ 8 x 108 1/8 in. (36.5 x 274.6 cm)
Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988 (1989.363.17)
Yelü Chucai, a descendant of the ruling family of the Khitan Liao dynasty (9071125), was a prominent statesman under the Mongol khans. This poem, his only extant autograph, shows boldly angular characters written in a simple yet imposing style. The blunt monumental calligraphy recalls that of another eminent statesman, Yan Zhenqing (709785), who wrote as though "inscribing stone with a stylus."
This poem is a plea for humanitarian rule. It ends with the admonition: "Despotic officials and shyster underofficials, may they feel ashamed!"