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Leaving the Capital (離都帖)

Cai Xiang (蔡襄, 1012–1067), Song Dynasty (960–1279)

Album leaf, ink on paper, 29.2 x 46.8 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei

       This letter to Gentleman Du was written by Cai Xiang in a period of mourning for the loss of his eldest son (1055), but for the most part Cai still maintains his poise of vigor and beauty in calligraphy. Nonetheless, a few strokes of the brush still reveal fluctuations of emotion that transmit the pain that he must have felt as he was writing. The brushwork here is rounded and solid, while also flowing and wandering, thus revealing Cai Xiang’s complete success in traditional calligraphic studies. In the flowing grace of the brush movement in the few characters, the forms and structure are enchanting, while the generous spacing of the character structure and the hook method here conform to that of Yan Zhenqing (顏真卿, 709–785).