Date: 9 December 2000
Place: Chinese Information and Culture Center, 1230 sixth Avenue, New York City
Minutes: Matthew Flannery
Member Attending: Alan Berkowitz, Stephen Dydo, Willow Hai Chang, Matthew Flannery, Shida Kuo, Yuan Jung-Ping
The Meeting: Leon Chang, Symposium on Calligraphy
Jung-Ping noted that Dr. Chang was past president of the National Taiwan Art College and for two years was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Palace Museum (Taibei). He is author of La calligraphic chinoise (Paris, 1971) and Four Thousand Years of Chinese Calligraphy (with Peter Miller; University of Chicago, 1990). He is also the author of numerous articles on calligraphy, painting, and other arts in both English and Chinese, and has made numerous acute studies of the details of the work of specific calligraphers. He is also an accomplished and published poet. He began his work in calligraphy by studying various forms of the clerical script of the Han dynasty (221 BCE-220 CE). Then he followed the informal styles of clerical script found on wood tablets dating from the Han and Chin (265-417) dynasties. Subsequently, he ~ studied various masters of the Sung (960-1278), primarily Huang Tingchien (1045-1107) and Mi Fu (1052-1105), but others as well, including Su Shih (1036-1101) and Wu Zhu (fl. 1140). Occasionally, his works are based on such later masters as Ni Can (1301-1374). On other occasions, his works were influenced by the northern dynasties of the sixth century, including the Northern Wei (386-535) and Northern Chi (550-577). In later life, he has often returned to works after various models of clerical script.
Dr. Chang first talked about his calligraphy studies with his master, Hu Xiaoshi (1888- 1962), one of the greatest calligraphers of the mid- twentieth century. He was one of four students to study with Master Hu at the time, one woman and three men. Each formally requested to study with him and were accepted. faster Hu first warned them lot to study his own style.
There also was no payment. In this and in his teaching technique. Master Hu was of the old school of instruction. One member of the group dropped out after three months, but the others persevered. One day, Master Hu asked them at what date they had begun to study with him. They told him. He said, " Ah. It has been three years since then. You graduate. " That was their last class.
Dr. Chang said that, by indulging in calligraphy ("that time-wasting learning process") from age 22 to age 92, he had spent " seventy years in toil with little result." He admitted, however, that in this 70 years there were three things in his life that he was proud of. One was a bronze sculpture that a friend had made based on Dr. Chang's calligraphy, the second was being asked to write some characters for a UNICEF card, and the third was brushing three characters for a United Nations stamp of 1945 celebrating its founding in that year.
The beginning of Chinese writing was not the inspiration of any sage but a gradual process of associating signs with sounds. Early pictographs appeared brushed on pottery and cast into bronze by the eighteenth century BCE. Subsequently, pictorial signs became mixed with abstract ones. By the fifteenth century BCE, verbs appeared in bronze and oracle bone inscriptions, indicating the presence of grammar. Bronze utensils acquired longer inscriptions with time since they became a means of preserving documents such as treaties. Later bronze inscriptions came to reach 300 to 500 characters.
In the Warring States period (403-221 BCE), seven states contended with each other until one of them, the Jin, gradually achieved supremacy. Founding the Jin dynasty, it united all territory that was Chinese at that time. The Jin emperor, Shihuangdi, moved to unify the country by standardizing all its measures and standards. This included the written script, which had assumed rather different styles under the seven independent states. The new, standardized script was later termed xiao zhuan shu 小篆書, or lesser seal script, to discriminate it from the multitude of previous written forms, collectively termed da zhuan shu, or greater seal script.
Seal, clerical, standard, running, and cursive constitute the five basic script types of Chinese writing and calligraphy. Interpretations of these types by individual artists are styles of these scripts and are as legion as are the artists that have created them. Style is an individual matter.
Sometimes, people ask about the meaning of calligraphy. Picasso, when asked what one of his paintings meant, replied, " This kind of question can no longer be asked. " Essentially the same thing is true of calligraphy, or any art. In the ninth century, Han Yu 韓愈 (768-824) wrote an essay, " Sung Gao Xian Shang Ren Xu 送高閑上人序( " To the mouk Gao Xuan "). Gao was a monk who, whether pleased with life or unhappy, would " unload " his feelings in calligraphy. That is, it is not that art has a specific literal meaning but that it is used to vent emotion in products that, aesthetically pleasing, will stimulate emotion and aesthetic reactions in others. Hence, an artwork does not mean anything in the way of a verbal message but is intended to provoke aesthetic reactions. Even in poetry and literature as in calligraphy, it is not what is said, it is how it is said. Only secondarily does art stimulate emotional reactions in the viewer based on its literal verbal or pictorial content or on accompanying explanations. Art expressing social commentary is an extreme example of this venue. But even in these cases, the specifically artistic qualities of a work are what make it art, not its literal content. In this sense, art is form, not content.
The emotional content of art is universal even as its forms are specific. For example, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe commented, " architecture is frozen music. Similarly, Paul Claudel titled one of his books The Eye Listens. And I. J. Belmont, a New York painter of the 1940s, maintained that color has music, and music, color, and wrote The Modem Dilemma in Art (1944) to discuss such issues. In the end, art forms are different, said Dr. Chang, but the emotions presented are the same. The arts " share the same blood, but are in different forms.
After Dr. Chang's talk, Stephen 戴德 played " Yang Guan San Tie, " or " Three Variations on Yang Gate. 陽關三疊" This piece, which Stephen played in its instrumental version, has a sung version based on a seven characters per line quatrain (chi yen jue zhu 七言絕句) by Wang Wei 王維 (699?-761), " On Yuan Er Leaving for Anxi." 宋元二使安西 Considerable additional lyrics have been added by later performers, but the song begins with Wang's 28 characters:
Here in Weicheng, morning rain settles light dust. Willow outside my inn still hold light green. Stay my friend. Have one more cup of wine. West of Yang Gate, no more old friends.
Then, Chang Pei-you 張培幼 played " Mei Hua San Nung, 梅花三弄" or "Three Variations on the Tune Plum Blossoms." It has two themes. The first of these is repeated in low, middle, and high registers, accounting for the three variations of the title.
Finally, Jung-Ping concluded the meeting by playing two pieces, " Ping Shao Lo Yen, 平沙落雁" or " Wild Geese Descend to Sandy Shores, " and " I Gu Ren, 憶故人" or " Memories of an Old Friend. " " Ping Shao Lo Yen " is so popular that it has more than 30 variants which variously have five, seven, or ten sections. Its earliest score is recorded in the qin manual Gu Yin Zheng Zong 古音正宗 of 1634. " I Gu Ren " is a contemporary piece first recorded in the Jin Yu Qin Kan 今虞琴刊(1937) and is attributed to the qin player Peng Zhiqing who received it from his father.
Members: Alex Chao, Alan J. Berkowitz, Stephen Dydo, Matthew Flannery, Willow Hai, Shida Kuo, Bo Lawergren, Gopal Sukhu, Yuan Jung-Ping
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