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On Sichuan Silk (蜀素帖)

Mi Fu (米芾, 1051–1107), Song Dynasty (960–1279)

Handscroll, ink on silk, 27.8 x 270.8 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei

       This handscroll of prized Sichuan silk was made in 1044 under the reign of Emperor Shenzong (神宗). Mi Fu used it to calligraph characters that were strongly influenced by those of Wang Xianzhi (王獻之, 344–386), son of the “Sage Calligrapher” Wang Xizhi (王羲之, 303–361), and that have an untrammeled and expansive feeling. The top and bottom grid lines were woven into the scroll with the vertical ones drawn in ink, indicating that this type of silk was especially made for calligraphy. The owner of this scroll of silk had asked renowned calligraphers to write on it, but they only made records at the end. He then encountered Mi Fu, who consented to write a long piece of calligraphy. The date that he included at the end of the scroll corresponds to the year 1088. Among the works of the Song masters, the brushwork and speed in Mi’s characters are the most lively and varied. Although done here within fine lines of black ink, Mi Fu’s running script flies with spirit and energy that is unrestrained by these “guidelines”. In fact, the unique quality of Mi Fu’s calligraphy lies in the great variety, which derives from his excellence in making use of every potential with the brush. The strokes—regardless of whether the brush tip is concealed or exposed, or whether they are plump or thin—all express the beauty of the art of writing. Indeed, this scroll imparts a sense of dashing and outstanding power, as if it was calligraphed with a joyful mood. This feeling derives from the strokes and forms of the characters dancing lightly and flying about the space in a vivid and free style. Mi Fu himself once wrote that calligraphing small characters is just like doing large ones, comparing it to a lion that tackles an elephant and uses all its might. This scroll is done in small characters and, when looking carefully at each—from applying to lifting the brush as well as from the first line to the end—many variations appear to the strokes and dots, and more characters appear slanted than straight. Song dynasty artists had a major influence on later developments in calligraphy with their running script (which was noted for its personal and exuberant manner) of which this scroll is an excellent example.

釋文:擬古。青松勁挺姿。凌霄恥屈盤。種種出枝葉。牽連上松端。秋花起絳烟。旖旎雲錦殷。不羞不自立。舒光射丸丸。柏見吐子效。鶴疑縮頸還。青松本無華。安得保歲寒。 龜鶴年壽齊。羽介所託殊。種種是靈物。相得忘形軀。鶴有沖霄心。龜厭曳尾居。以竹兩附口。相將上雲衢。報汝慎勿語。一語墮泥塗。吳江垂虹亭作。斷雲一片洞庭帆。 玉破鱸魚霜(旁改作金)破柑。好作新詩繼桑苧。垂虹秋色滿東南。泛泛五湖霜氣清。漫漫不辨水天形。何須織女支機石。且戲嫦娥稱客星。時為湖州之行。入境寄集賢林舍人。 揚帆載月遠相過。佳氣蔥蔥聽誦歌。路不拾遺知政肅。野多滯穗是時和。天分秋暑資吟興。晴獻溪山入醉哦。便捉蟾蜍共研墨。綵牋書盡剪江波。重九會郡樓。山清氣爽九秋天。 黃菊紅茱滿泛船。千里結言寧有後。群賢畢至猥居前。杜郎閑客今焉是。謝守風流古所傳。獨把秋英緣底事。老來情味向詩偏。和林公硯山之作。皎皎中天月。團團徑千里。震澤乃一水。 所占已過二。娑羅即峴山。謬云形大地。地惟東吳偏。山水古佳麗。中有皎皎人。瓊衣玉為餌。位維列仙長。學與千年對。幽操久獨處。迢迢願招類。金颸帶秋威。欻逐雲檣至。 朝隮輿馭飈。暮返光浮袂。雲盲有風駈。蟾餮有刀利。亭亭太陰宮。無乃瞻星氣。興深夷險一。理洞軒裳偽。紛紛夸俗勞。坦坦忘懷易。浩浩將我行。蠢蠢須公起。送王渙之彥舟。 集英春殿鳴梢歇。神武天臨光下澈。鴻臚初唱第一聲。白面王郎年十八。神武樂育天下造。不使敲枰使傳道。衣錦東南第一州。棘壁湖山兩清(清點去)照。襄陽野老漁竿客。 不愛紛華愛泉石。相逢不約約無逆。輿 握古書同岸幘。淫朋嬖黨初相慕。濯髮洒心求易慮。翩翩遼鶴雲中侶。土苴尫鴟那一顧。邇(業點去)來器業何深至。湛湛具區無底沚。 可憐一點終不易。枉駕殷勤尋漫仕。漫仕平生四方走。多與英才並肩肘。少有俳辭能罵鬼。老學鴟夷漫存口。一官聊具三徑資。取捨殊塗莫迴首。元祐戊辰。九月廿三日。溪堂米黻記。

On Sichuan Silk
On Sichuan Silk