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Inscription on Stone Sails

Calligrapher Zhao Zhiqian Chinese

Not on view

清 趙之謙 楷書 石颿銘 四條屏 紙本

In a sense, the Epigraphic School culminated with Zhao Zhiqian. His standard script, which you see here, was inspired by stone inscriptions of the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534), but he wrote with a quivering brush that gives his calligraphy a quality of pulsating power. The transcribed text is part of Bao Zhao’s (ca. 412–466) poem “Inscription on Stone Sails.” “Stone Sails” refers to a mountain in Hunan Province, named for its many steep, pointed peaks that resemble the sails of a fleet of ships. The text reads:

Filling the sky to its limits is a shadowy expanse
[of clouds].
Cloud banners have not risen; no wind rustles through
the branches.
Breakers splash like collapsing hills, as dark waves
thunder along.

—Trans. by Shi-yee Liu

Inscription on Stone Sails, Zhao Zhiqian (Chinese, 1829–1884), Set of four hanging scrolls; ink on paper, China

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