Wang Xizhi (wahng SHEE-jee) was from a family of aristocrats and scholars. He was a court secretary of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420 c.e.), general of Ningyuan prefecture, governor of Jingzhou, a general, and a civil administrator of Guiji in Zhejiang until he retired. He then maintained close contact with the literary scholars of his time.
Wang Xizhi learned calligraphy initially from Wei Shuo, a noted woman calligrapher, and further developed his skills by imitating the work of distinguished calligraphers of the past, such as Zhangzhi’s (d. c. 192 c.e.) caoshu (cursive script) and Zhongyao’s (151-230 c.e.) kaishu (standard characters). His calligraphy integrated styles of all schools into his own, showing a mighty, majestic appearance, limitless changes, and round and smooth motions. He was superb in all script styles, but especially so in kaishu and xingshu (running script). Most of his original works have not survived; only copies exist. These include his running script renderings of Lanting Xu (after 353 c.e.; preface to poems made at the Orchard Pavilion) and Kong Shizhong (n.d.; Kong the imperial attendant), and his cursive script rendering of Shiqi Tie (n.d.; seventeen models) and Chuyue (n.d.; the crescent Moon). His son, Wang Xianzhi (344-386 c.e.), was an equally accomplished calligrapher, and together they are known as the “two Wangs.”...
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