Selected Anecdotes about Su Shi and Mi Fu


This book is a collection of anecdotes about two great Song masters of poetry, painting, and calligraphy, Su Shi (1037–1101) and Mi Fu (1051–1107). It was compiled by Guo Hua, about whom little is known, reviewed by Xu Richang, and edited by Hu Zhengyan (1580–1671), a painter, calligrapher, and seal carver. Hu Zhengyan published the first Chinese color woodblock print in his house, the famed Shi zhu zhai (Ten Bamboo Studio), where this work also was printed. Su Shi, also called Su Dongpo, gained even  greater popularity after death, as people built shrines in his honor and sought to collect his works, portraits, and stone inscriptions about his many travels. Mi Fu, also called Nangong, was known for painting misty landscapes using large wet ink dots applied with a flat brush, was a noted eccentric, and was often called “Madman Mi” for his manners and obsessions. Mi Fu and Su Shi formed a circle of brilliant artists who emphasized personal expression over mere technical excellence. The sources of the anecdotes in this work are not given, so it is difficult to determine their authenticity. The book consists of six juan, in four volumes, with four juan on Su Shi, entitled Dongpo tan shi guang (Selected anecdotes of Dongpo), and two juan on Mi Fu, entitled Nangong tan shi guang (Selected anecdotes of Nangong). The catalog Si ku quan shu cun mu (Catalog of books not included in the Siku Collection) lists only one volume on Su Shi and one volume on Mi Fu, dated 1611. This copy is an enlarged but undated edition, printed probably during the Tianqi reign (1621–27). On its cover is the seal of Ten Bamboo Studio, the publishing house. There are 16 prefatory essays, all by friends of the compiler, who was from Xuancheng County. Among the authors are He Weiran, Wu Congxian, and Mei Shishu and Mei Shiqi, who were also from Xuancheng. One preface, written by Zhang Yishen, describes the occasion when he met the compiler at the Ten Bamboo Studio, and thought of him as “an eloquent, quick-witted and amazing man, and very much in tune with Su and Mi.” The work bears a rectangular-shaped seal impression that reads: Qing fen tang shu hua (Records of paintings and calligraphy at the Qingfen Hall). The engraving and printing are exquisite and the text is clear.

Last updated: May 24, 2017