Couplet

Artist: Zhao Zhiqian (Chinese, 1829–1884)

Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)

Date: dated 1867

Culture: China

Medium: Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper

Dimensions: Image (each): 71 5/8 x 18 15/16 in. (181.9 x 48.1 cm)
Overall with mounting (each): 92 1/2 x 23 1/2 in. (235 x 59.7 cm)

Classification: Calligraphy

Credit Line: Gift of Judith G. and F Randall Smith, in honor of Maxwell K. Hearn, 2000

Accession Number: 2000.345.1, .2

Description

Zhao Zhiqian, the leading scholar-artist of his day, grew up in a merchant family but received a classical education in order to pursue a career in government. Passing the provincial civil-service examination in 1859, Zhao spent the next twelve years in Beijing selling his art while trying unsuccessfully to pass the capital examination before being awarded a post as district magistrate in Jiangxi Province in 1872.

Zhao was equally renowned as a calligrapher, seal carver, and painter. He is best known for a distinctive "square-brush" style of calligraphy derived from the engraved stone writings of the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534), as seen in his dedication and signature here, but he also developed a distinctively plump seal-script manner exemplified by this couplet, which expresses a sentiment appropriate for a Confucian household:

Great virtue comes from forbearance,
sincerity comes from a mind free from deception.
(translated by Jason Zhixin Sun)

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