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Paper from Heart Purification Hall (澄心堂帖)

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

Album leaf, ink on paper, 24.7 x 27.1 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei

       The movement of the brush in this work is like that of running script, but the characters are similar to those of regular script, being calligraphed in an easy-going manner. Compared to other works by Cai Xiang, there is a touch of refinement in addition to the dignity of the manner here. The brushwork and characters generally reflect a fusion of the styles of the two Tang masters Yu Shinan and Yan Zhenqing (顏真卿, 709–785). The contents describe a request for producing one of the most famous of papers, Paper from Heart Purification Hall. Li Bian (李昪), Emperor Liezu of the Southern Tang (南唐烈祖), is said to have ordered its production in Xuancheng. The surface of this type of paper was said to be as fine as the membrane of an egg and as pure and resilient as jade. Exceptionally thin and lustrous, it was regarded in the Song dynasty as the finest of all papers.