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Two Letters (二札)

Lin Bu (林逋, 967–1028), Song Dynasty (960–1279)

Album leaves, ink on paper, 31.4 x 35.4 cm, 31.5 x 38.2 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei

       Lin Bu in his later life lived in reclusion on Solitary Hill (Gushan, 孤山) at West Lake in Hangzhou. Indifferent to worldly gain and fond of antiquity, he took pleasure in planting plum trees and raising cranes, so much that people would refer to the former as his wife and the latter as his children. Emperor Renzong (1010–1063) later bestowed upon him the posthumous name of “Master Hejing (和靖先生).” Lin Bu’s literary works and letters became much appreciated at the time, with Su Shi (1037–1101) considering his calligraphy similar to that of Li Jianzhong (945–1013) which is pure and lean. Critiques through the ages have also compared Lin Bu’s pure and strong calligraphy to his famous line on plum blossoms (“Hidden fragrance, scattered shadows”, 暗香疏影), his characters delicate yet resilient. Surviving examples of Lin’s calligraphy are quite few, the brushwork in these two letters sharp and powerful with angular turns of the brush fully exposing its tip. The wide and relaxed line spacing further reveals an untrammeled expansiveness that bears dramatic expressiveness.