Five Memory Poems (自書五憶歌)
Wang Chong (王寵, 1494–1533), Ming Dynasty (1368–1644)
Handscroll, ink on paper, 29.3 x 294.7 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei
Wang Chong (王寵, 1494–1533), courtesy names Lüren (履仁) and Lüji (履吉), sobriquet Yayi Shanren (雅宜山人), was a native of Suzhou. He was the son of the merchant Wang Zhen (王貞), who also collected antiquities as well as painting and calligraphy. Influenced by his father, Wang Chong studied with his brother under Wen Zhengming (文徵明, 1470–1559) and Cai Yu (蔡羽, ?–1541), excelling at poetry and prose. His calligraphy followed the style of Wang Xianzhi (王獻之, 344–386) and Yu Shinan (虞世南, 558–638). Wang Chong is known along with Zhu Yunming (祝允明, 1460–1526) and Wen Zhengming as one of the “Three Talents of Suzhou (吳中三家).”
This is a handscroll of semi-cursive calligraphy that flies and darts across the paper. Wang’s application of the brush was somewhat stiff, with only the turns of the brush being slightly softer, giving a slightly harsh yet archaic effect. Although in modern cursive, the characters in this work are practically independent with a sense of draft cursive. The right-falling strokes of some characters, such as “mian 眠”, “tai 泰” and “lie 裂”, also suggest a touch of clerical script. These poems were done at the age of 34 and written on stiff sutra paper from Mt. Jinsu, which highlights Wang’s quick and forceful brushwork as well as the areas where he lifted and pressed the brush. This work is one of the best surviving ones by Wang Chong.