Poem in Seven-character Verse
Poem in Seven-character Verse
Huang T'ing-chien (1045 - 1105)
Sung Dynasty
National Palace Museum

Masterpieces of Cursive Script Calligraphy
Galleries 204, 206
2000/11/1 - 2000/12/25

Cursive (also known as "grass") script (ts'ao shu) is the most abbreviated and fluid form of Chinese calligraphy.  Most early Chinese manuscripts were written using the complex and formal seal and clerical scripts.  However, as the practice of recording large numbers of public and private documents became increasingly common starting in around the 3rd century B.C., scholars, officials, and government clerks gradually developed a more simplified, faster style of writing.  This new script, known as draft cursive (chang - ts'ao), matured into its final form by the Eastern Han dynasty (A.D. 20 - 220).  Over the next several centuries, the script was further simplified and increasing attention was placed on the spirit and flow of the brushstrokes.   The functional purpose of the script as a means of communicating information was gradually deemphasized as more and more attention was paid to its aesthetic qualities.   By the Chin dynasty (317 - 420) cursive script had become a fully-fledged art form in its own right and had taken on the "modern" characteristics by which it is known today.

Unless one is particularly familiar with an individual artist's style, cursive script is very difficult to read.  While it is still based on the fundamental line and dot structure of Chinese characters, these forms are highly stylized and often appear more like abstract symbols than character.  The flow of cursive brushstrokes across a piece of silk or paper has been compared to the melody and rhythm of a piece of music.   From this point of view, recognizing and understanding the characters is not as important as appreciating the beauty of their calligraphic nature.  The National Palace Museum hopes that these masterpieces will help visitors gain an understanding of the history, techniques, and beauty of this amazing type of calligraphy.


Visions of Compassion: Images of Kuan-yin in Chinese Art Painting and Calligraphy Donated to the National Palace Museum Annual Special Exhibition of Treasured Paintings and Calligraphic Works A Collection of Calligraphy and Paintings
From the Dynasty of Old: A Special Exhibition of the Art of P'u Hsin-yu Masterpieces of Cursive Script Calligraphy Nomadic Waves and Cultural Exchange on the Inner Mongolian Steppe A Special Exhibition of Ch'ing Dynasty Grand Council Archives
Oct - Dec, 2000 Issue  Museum Previous Issues