Thursday, September 11, 2008

Zhang Xu

Zhang Xu may refer to:

* Cho U, known as Zhang Xu in pinyin, Taiwanese Go player currently resides in Japan
* Zhang Xu , Chinese calligrapher in Tang Dynasty

Yu Shinan

Yan Zhenqing was a leading Chinese calligrapher and a loyal governor of the Tang Dynasty. His artistic accomplishment in Chinese calligraphy parallels the greatest master calligraphers throughout the history, and his calligraphy style, ''Yan'', is the textbook-style that every calligraphy lover has to imitate today.


Early life

Yan Zhenqing was born in Linyi of Shandong Province to a reputed academic family which served the court for many generations. His great-great grandfather Yan Shigu was a famous linguist while his father Yan Weizhen was princes' private tutor and a great calligrapher himself. Under the influence of the family tradition and the strict instruction of his mother, Lady Yin , Yan Zhenqing worked hard since his childhood and was well-read in literature and Confucianism.

In 734, at the age of 22, Yan Zhenqing qualified from the national wide imperial examination and was granted the title of ''Jinshi'' . He then gained the rare opportunity of taking a special imperial examination that was set for candidates with extraordinary talents, again excelling in it. With outstanding academic background, Yan Zhengqing rose rapidly through the bureaucratic ladder: he was appointed vice-magistrate of Liquan District , then later Investigating Censor and Palace Censor . His uprightness and outspoken style were hailed by the common people, but angered Grand Councilor Yang Guozhong; as a result, in 753, he was sent out of the capital as the governor of Pingyuan.

Civil war

By the time Yan Zhenqing took up the post of governor of Pingyuan, the An Shi Rebellion was imminent. With his political sensitivity, Yan Zhenqing immediately started preparing for war by fortifying the city wall and stocking up provisions. He also sent emergency memorial to , but was ignored.

In December 755, An Lushan and Shi Siming rebelled under the name of removing Yang Guozhong. The ill-prepared Tang government troops retreated with little resistance from all the prefectures in Heshuo area ; only Yan Zhenqing’s Pingyuan sustained through. He then combined force with his cousin, Yan Gaoqing , who was the governor of , fighting the rebels at their rear. The government in its desperation, promoted Yan Zhenqing to Deputy Minister of Finance , and conferred him great military power to assist General Li Guangbi in the crackdown of the rebellion.

Thereafter Yans’ force won several major battles over the rebels, which include successfully cutting off their provision line and regaining control over seventeen commands in Heshuo area. In 756, ascended the throne and promoted Yan Zhenqing to Minister of Works . Due to poor military deployment by the Tang government, An Lushan managed to attack Hebei by surprise, and Yan Zhenqing reluctantly abandoned his command, returning to the court in 757. He was then appointed Minister of Law , but his outspokenness against corruptive higher-ranking officials resulted himself being constantly demoted and re-promoted.

Late life

In 764, conferred the title of Duke of Lu on Yan Zhenqing in recognition of his firm loyalty to the government and bravery during An Lushan Rebellion. However, his unbendable character was resented by the incumbent Grand Councilor, Lu Qi , and cost him his life.

In 784, the military commissioner of Huaixi , Li Xilie , rebelled. Lu Qi had held a grudge against Yan Zhenqing for a long time, so he sent Yan Zhenqing to negotiate with Li Xilie in the hope that Yan Zhenqing will be killed. As expected, Li Xilie tried all means to coax or threaten Yan Zhenqing to surrender, but Yan Zhenqing was never wavered. According to the legend, Li Xilie set up a fire in the courtyard and told Yan Zhengqing he would be burnt to death if not surrendering. Yet Yan Zhenqing did not show the slightest fear and walked towards the fire determinately. Li Xilie could not help but to show respect to him, and in 785, Yan Zhenqing was secretly strangled in Longxing Temple in Caizhou, Henan.

Upon hearing his death, Emperor Daizong closed the assembly for five days and conferred the posthumous title ''Wenzhong'' on Yan Zhenqing. He was also widely mourned by the army and the people, and a temple was constructed to commemorate him. In Song Dynasty, the temple was moved to Shandong and henceforward became a key tourist attraction.

Calligraphy achievement

Yan Zhenqing is popularly held as the only calligrapher who parallelled Wang Xizhi, the "Calligraphy Sage". He specialized in '''' Script and ''Cao'' Script, though he also mastered other writings well. His ''Yan'' style of ''Kai'' Script, which brought Chinese calligraphy to a new realm, emphasized on strength, boldness and grandness. Like most of the master calligraphers, Yan Zhenqing learnt his skill from various calligraphers, and the development of his personal style can be basically divided into three stages.

Early period

Most calligraphers agree Yan Zhenqing’s early stage lasted until his 50s. During these years, Yan Zhenqing tried out different techniques and started to develop his personal genre. When he was young, he studied calligraphy under the famous calligraphers and Chu Suiliang. Zhang Xu was skilled in ''Cao'' Script, which emphasizes the overall composition and flow; Chu Suiliang, on the other hand, was renowned for his graceful and refined ''Kai'' Script. Yan Zhenqing also drew inspiration from ''Wei Bei'' Style, which originated from Northern nomad minorities and focused on strength and simplicity.

In 752, he wrote one of his best-known pieces, ''Duobao Pagoda Stele'' . The stele has 34 lines, each containing 66 characters, and it was written for Emperor Xuanzong who was extremely pious to Buddhism at the moment. The style of the writing was close to that of the early Tang calligraphers, who emphasized elegance and "fancifulness"; yet it also pursues composure and firmness in the stroke of the brush, structuring characters on powerful frames with tender management on brushline.

Consolidating period

This period ranges from Yan Zhenqing’s fifties to sixty-five. During these years, he wrote some famous pieces like ''Guojia Miao Stele'' and ''Magu Shan Xiantan Ji'' . Having experienced An Lushan Rebellion and frequent vicissitudes in his civil career, Yan Zhenqing’s style was maturing. He increased the waist force while wielding the brush, and blended the techniques from '''' and '''' Scripts into his own style, making the start and ending of his brushline gentler. For individual stroke, he adopted the rule of “thin horizontal and thick vertical strokes”; strokes’ widths were varied to show the curvature and flow, and the dots and oblique strokes were finished with sharp edges. For character structure, Yan style displays squared shape and modest arrangement, with spacious center portion and tight outer strokes; this structure resembles more to the more dated ''Zhuan'' and ''Li'' Scripts. And for the allocation of the blank, characters are compact vertically, leaving relatively more space in between lines. Hence, the emerging ''Yan'' style had abandoned the sumptuous trend of early Tang calligraphers: it is rather upright, muscular, fitting, rich and controlled; than sloped, feminine, pretty, slim and capricious.

Consummating period

In the ten years’ before his death, Yan Zhenqing’s calligraphy accomplishment peaked. With established style, he continuously improved on each of his works, and completed his Magnum Opus, ''Yan Qingli Stele'' . At this stage, he was able to fully exhibit his style at his will even through a single stroke, and under his modest and stately style bubbles the liveness and passion.


Yan Zhenqing’s style assimilated the essence of the past five hundred years, and almost all the calligraphers after him were more or less influenced by him. In his contemporary period, another great master calligrapher, Liu Gongquan, studied under him, and the much-respected Five-Dynasty Period calligrapher, Yang Ningshi thoroughly inherited Yan Zhenqing’s style and made it bolder.

The trend of imitating Yan Zhenqing peaked during Song Dynasty. The "Four Grand Masters of Song Dynasty" – Su Shi, Huang Tingjian , Mi Fu , Cai Xiang – all studied ''Yan'' Style; Su Shi even claimed Yan Zhenqing’s calligraphy "peerless" throughout the history.

After Song, the popularity of Yan Zhenqing declined slightly, as calligraphers tended to try out more abstract way of expression. However, it still took a very important status, and many renowned calligraphers, such as Zhao Mengfu and Dong Qichang are said to be inspired by Yan Zhenqing.

In contemporary China, the leading calligraphers like Sha Menghai and Shen Yinmo conducted extended research on ''Yan'' style, and since then it regained its popularity. Nowadays almost every Chinese calligraphy learner imitates ''Yan'' style when he first picks up the brush, and Yan Zhenqing’s influence has also spread across oceans to Korea, Japan and South-east Asia.

Wei Shuo

Wei Shuo , courtesy name Mouyi , sobriquet He'nan , commonly addressed just as Lady Wei , was a calligrapher of Eastern Jin, who established consequential rules about the regular script. Her famous disciple was Wang Xizhi.

Born in modern , Wei was the daughter of Wei Zhan or the daughter or younger sister of Wei Heng . Wei was married to Li Ju , the Governor of Ding Prefecture. Wei and Li had Li Chong , also a calligrapher and a Palace Secretarial Attendant . She was a student of Zhong Yao. However, Wei's style is narrower than Zhong's wider style. Wei's ''The Picture of Ink Brush'' describes the Seven Powers that later became the famous Eight Principles of Yong.


Her other works include:
* ''Famous Concubine Inscription''
* ''The Inscription of Weishi He'nan''

Huai Su

Zhao Mengfu courtesy name Ziang , pseudonyms Songxue , Oubo , and Shuijing-gong Dao-ren , was a prince and descendant of the Song Dynasty, and a scholar, and calligrapher during the Yuan Dynasty.

He was married to Guan Daosheng, who was also an accomplished poet, painter and calligrapher. His rejection of the refined, gentle brushwork of his era in favour of the cruder style of the eighth century is considered to have brought about a revolution that created the modern Chinese landscape painting. He was known for his paintings of horses. His landscapes are also considered to be done in a style that focuses more on a literal laying of ground. Rather than organizing them in a foreground, middle ground, and background pattern he layers middle grounds at various heights to create a sense of depth. This pattern of organization makes his paintings appear very simple and approachable. It was this characteristic that so many people valued about his style.

Huang Ruheng

Zheng Xie , commonly known as Zheng Banqiao was a painter from Jiangsu. He began life in poverty, but rose in the exam system to become a magistrate at Shandong. However, after 12 years, he became critical of the life of an official because he reportedly was criticized for building a shelter for the poor, and so he resigned. After that, he expressed himself in art and became one of the Yangzhou. He was noted for his drawing of orchids, bamboo, and stones. In 1748 he briefly resumed an official career as "official calligrapher and painter" for the Qianlong emperor, but was fired in 1753 following a corruption charge.

He was also a calligrapher who created a new calligraphy style influenced by his orchid drawings. Added to this, he had an interest in literature and poetry. He preferred to write about ordinary people in a natural style.

Huang Tingjian

Huang Tingjian , is predominantly known as a calligrapher but was also admired for his painting and poetry. He was one of the Four masters of the Song Dynasty. Huang was a student of Su Shi at his school of literati painting.

Huang is generally regarded as the finest and most creative calligrapher of the Song Dynasty. His xingshu displays a sharpness and aggression which is instantly recognisable to the student of Chinese calligraphy.

Liu Gongquan

Kang Youwei
Chinese Name
PinyinKāng Yǒuwéi
Wade-GilesK'ang Yu-wei
Traditional Chinese康有為
Simplified Chinese康有为

*Gēngshēng or 更甡
*Xīqiáo Shānrén
*Tiānyóu Huàrén
''Notes:''?''K'ang Yu-wei: A Biography and a Symposium'' gives Guǎngxià 廣夏

Kang Youwei , was a scholar, noted and prominent political thinker and of the late Qing Dynasty. He led movements to establish a constitutional monarchy and was an ardent Chinese nationalist. His ideas inspired a reformation movement that was supported by the Guangxu Emperor but loathed by Empress Dowager Cixi. Although he continued to advocate for constitutional monarchy after the foundation of the Republic of China, Kang's political ideology was never put into practical application.

Early life

Kang Youwei was born on March 19, 1858 in , Guangdong province. According to his autobiography, his intellectual gifts were recognized as a child by his uncle. Therefore, from an early age he was sent by his family to study the Confucian classics in order to pass the . However, as a teenager he was dissatisfied by the scholastic system of his time, especially its emphasis on preparing for the exams, which are artificial literary exercises done during examinations. Studying for exams was an extraordinarily rigorous activity, so he engaged in Buddhist meditation as a form of relaxation, an unusual leisurely activity for a Chinese scholar of his time. It was during one of these meditations that he had a mystical vision which became the theme for his intellectual pursuits throughout his life. Believing that it was possible to read every book and "become a sage" he embarked on a quasi-messianic pursuit to save humanity.


Kang called for an end to property and the family in the interest of an idealized future Chinese nationalism, and cited Confucius as an example of a reformer and not as a reactionary, as many of his contemporaries did. He argued that the of the were to bolster his claims. Kang was a strong believer in constitutional monarchy and wanted to remodel the country after ; These ideas angered his colleagues in the scholarly class who regarded him as a .

Kang, along with his famed student, Liang Qichao, were important participants of a campaign to modernize China now known as the Hundred Days' Reform. The reform introduced radical change into the stale Chinese government, and angered conservatives who feared losing power due to the influence of the reformers. The conservative faction's most powerful member, , ended the reforms and ordered Kang through death by a thousand cuts. Kang fled to Japan, where with Liang he organized the Protect the Emperor Society, travelled throughout the promoting constitutional monarchy and competing with the revolutionary leader Revive China Society and Revolutionary Alliance for funds and followers.

After the Qing Dynasty fell and the Republic of China was established in 1912 under Sun Yat-sen, Kang remained an advocate of constitutional monarchy and with this aim launched a failed coup d'état in 1917. General and his queue-wearing soldiers occupied Beijing, declaring a restoration of Emperor Puyi on July 1. This incident was a major miscalculation. The nation was highly anti-monarchist. Kang became suspicious of Zhang's insincere constitutionalism and that he was merely using the restoration to become the power behind the throne. He abandoned his mission and fled to the American legation. On July 12, Duan Qirui easily occupied the city.

Kang's reputation serves as an important barometer for the political attitudes of his time. In the span of less than twenty years, he went from being regarded as an iconoclastic radical to an anachronistic pariah without significantly modifying his ideology.

''Da Tongshu''

The best-known and probably most controversial work of Kang Youwei was the ''Da Tongshu'' . The title of this book derives from the name of a utopian society imagined by Confucius, although it literally means "The Book of Great Unity." The ideas of this books appeared in his lecture notes from 1884, and encouraged by his students, he worked on this book for the next two decades, but it was not until his exile in India that he finished the first draft. The first two chapters of the book were published in Japan in the 1900s, however the book wasn't published in its entirety until 1935, about seven years after his death. In it Kang proposed a utopian future world that would be free of political boundaries, ruled by one central government, but under democratic rule. In his scheme, the world would be split into rectangular administrative districts which would be self-governing under a direct democracy, although oddly still loyal to a central world government.

His desire to end the traditional Chinese family structure defines him as an early advocate of womens' independence in China.
He reasoned that the institution of the family that had been practiced by society since the beginning of time was a great cause of strife. Kang hoped it would be effectively abolished. Replacing the family would be state-run institutions, such as womb-teaching institutions, nurseries and schools. Marriage would be replaced by one-year contracts between a woman and a man. Kang considered the contemporary form of marriage, in which a woman was trapped for a lifetime, to be too oppressive. Kang believed in equality between men and women and believed that there should be no social barrier barring women from doing whatever men can. From this point of view, Kang also advocated the idea that homosexuality should be permitted, as presumably there are no differences in love between men and women and between a man and a man.

Kang saw capitalism as an inherently evil system and believed that government should establish socialist institutions to overlook the welfare of each individual. At one point he even advocated that government should adopt the methods of "communism", although it is debated what Kang meant by this term. He was surely one of the first advocates of Western communism in China. In this spirit, in addition to establishing government nurseries and schools to replace the institution of the family, he also envisioned government-run retirement homes for the elderly. It is debated whether Kang's socialist ideas were inspired more by Western thought or traditional Confucian ideals. Lawrence G. Thompsom believes that his socialism was based on traditional Chinese ideals. His work is permeated with the Confucian ideal of ''ren'', or ''humanity''. However Thompson also noted a reference by Kang to Fourier. Thus some Chinese scholars believe that Kang's socialist ideals were influenced by Western intellectuals after his exile in 1898.

Notable in Kang's ''Da Tong Shu'' was his enthusiasm and belief in bettering humanity with technology. This was unusual for a Confucian scholar during his time. He believed that Western technological progress had a central role in saving humanity. While many scholars of his time continued to maintain the belief that Western technology should only be adopted to defend China against the West, he seemed to full-heartedly embrace the modern idea that technology is integral for advancing mankind. Before anything of modern scale had been built, he foresaw a global telegraphic and telephone network. He also believed that technology would reduce human labor to the point where each individual would only need to work 3 to 4 hours each day, a prediction that will be repeated by the most optimistic futurists later in the century.

When the book was first published it was received with mixed reactions. Due to Kang's support for the Guangxu Emperor, he is seen as a reactionary by many Chinese intellectuals. People of this camp believed that Kang's book was an elaborate joke, and that he was merely acting as an apologist for the emperor as to how utopian paradise could have developed if the Qing dynasty was not overthrown. Others believe that Kang was a bold and daring proto-Communist who advocated modern Western socialism and communism. Amongst those in the second school was Mao Zedong, who admired Kang Youwei and his socialist ideals in the ''Da Tongshu''. Modern Chinese scholars nowadays often take the view that Kang was an important advocate of Chinese socialism, and despite the controversy ''Da Tongshu'' still remains popular. A Beijing publisher included it on the list "One hundred Most Influential Books in Chinese History." In the end, judgements of this remarkable individual may have been products of time and of place, and the future of Kang Youwei may take a form unknown to any of them.


Kang was poisoned in the city of Qingdao, Shandong in 1927. He was 69.

Kang's daughter, Kang Tongbi was a student at Barnard College.