Letter by Li Zhi

Bada Shanren (Zhu Da) Chinese

Not on view

In 1693 Zhu Da began studying works from the Chunhuage tie, a collection of rubbings of early calligraphies compiled in 992. This fan transcribes on piece from that collection, a letter from Li Zhi, who later became the emperor Tang Gaozong (r. 650–83). Zhu Da's writing freely departs from Li Zhi's original: done with plump "centered-tip" brushstrokes, Zhu's characters possess a simple, unaffected archaic flavor that is unmistakably his own.

Zhu Da's transcription of Li Zhi's letter reads: Uncle, you possess a great many artistic talents and you are an outstanding, compassionate teacher. Your son Ai has thus received an exemplary education and he is receptive and diligent, especially in calligraphy. When I heard that he had lately become particularly fond of the "Flying white" technique, I playfully took up my brush to amuse him. What I wrote is far from the graceful forms of the Six Calligraphic Modes and remiss in elegant diction. Yet, soon afterward I received your letter in which you so generously praised my work. In truth, the work is mere "ink traces" and does not deserve such attention. Reading your letter repeatedly only added to my embarrassment.

Letter by Li Zhi, Bada Shanren (Zhu Da) (Chinese, 1626–1705), Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink on paper, China

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