November 25, 2014

Painting of the Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion during the Spring Purification Festival

This rubbing scroll combines two works: Lanting xu tie (Calligraphy of the preface to the poems composed at the Orchid Pavilion) by Wang Xizhi (321−79), and Liu shang tu (The floating goblets), originally a painting, by the Song artist Li Gonglin (1049−1106). Emperor Qianlong (reigned 1736−95) commissioned this scroll, which was reprinted from the Song rubbing with the missing parts added, based on the fragment of Lanting tu (Illustrations of Lanting) by Zhu Yiyin (1536−1603), Prince Yi of the Ming dynasty. The missing part of the calligraphy of Wang Xizhi’s poems in the Dingwu edition (Dingwu is present-day Zhending County, Hebei Province) was also added, using a Song rubbing in the imperial collection. The stone where Lanting tu was carved originally stood in the imperial garden, Yuanmingyuan, but was destroyed by the allied British and French troops in 1860, during the Second Opium War. However, the rubbings of the stone have been preserved to the present and are now in the collection of the National Library of China. Although this is a Qing Qianlong period copy, created in 1781, the completeness of its texts and refined quality of the rubbing make it superior to the Ming copy. It is considered a great treasure.

Rubbings of the Stone-drum Inscriptions on a Stone Ink Slab

This scroll contains rubbings of the inscriptions originally found on ancient stone drums. During the Jiajing reign of the Ming dynasty (1522−66) Gu Congyi (1523−88) carved the inscriptions on a stone ink slab, following the exact number, the same order of the characters, and shape as they appeared in a Song rubbing. He proportionally reduced the size to fit the surface of the ink slab but preserved the original features of the Song rubbing of the stone-drum inscriptions. Because the Song copies are all in collections now overseas, this rubbing in the collection of the National Library of China is of high value. Qing scholars attached great importance to these inscriptions; for example, Xu Shizhang, an art collector in Tianjin, paid a large sum of money in 1936 to acquire the rubbings. Later that year, Zhou Xiding (1891−1961), a skilled seal carver and rubbing maker, reproduced them as shown in this scroll. The rubbings contain both inscriptions on the ink slab and the inside and outside of its case. They also contain seal impressions of various copiers, the history of how these rubbings were collected, and studies on ink slabs. The information is thus comprehensive and the records are in great detail. The value and significance of the scroll lie in the extensive information it conveys for the study of stone-drum inscriptions and stone-drum inscriptions on ink slabs.

Rubbings of Inscriptions on Mao Gong Ding, the Duke Mao Tripod

Mao Gong Ding, the bronze tripod cauldron, was excavated at the end of the Daoguang period (1821−50) in Qishan County, Shaanxi. Dings were used widely as ritual vessels and became hierarchical symbols during the Zhou dynasty (circa 1046−256 BC). This is the most famous ding, originally belonging to Mao Gong. There are 497 characters on the inside of the vessel, the longest bronze inscription known to this day. The inscription records the history of the late Western Zhou (circa 1046−771 BC), specifically the reign of Emperor Xuan in the ninth century BC, the service of his uncle the duke of Mao as head of government, and a list of the duke’s honors and rewards. It was a national treasure. The rubbings from the ding in the National Library of China date back to the Xianfeng and Tongzhi periods of the Qing dynasty (1851−74), when they originally were made by Chen Jieqi (1813−84) or his pupil. The images are natural and lifelike, giving a three-dimensional impression. This is a set of full-framed rubbings and is very valuable. Before the work came to the library, it was in the collection of Chen Huaisheng (1928−62). It includes a handwritten inscription by Luo Zhenyu (1866−1940) in large seal style. Chen Jieqi was the first professional collector of full-framed Mao Gong Ding inscriptions, and his rubbings can be considered comparable to the first edition of a rare book.

Laozi's Classic of the Way and the Virtue

Dao de jing (Classic of the way and the virtue) is also known as the Laozi. It is the key work of Laozi, a philosopher, poet, and originator of Daoism, thought to have lived in the sixth century BC. It has two parts: Dao jing (Book of Dao, the way) in 37 brief chapters and De jing (Book of De, the virtue) in 44 chapters. The entire book has 5,000 or so characters, thus it is also called Laozi wu qian wen (The 5,000-character Laozi). The nucleus of the work is the dao, also seen as tao (the way or principle), expositions thereon, and explanations of ideas on nature, tranquility, and emptiness. The Laozi became a very important document of the Daoist school in the pre-Qin era (before 221 BC). Many annotations and commentaries on the work were produced over the course of centuries. Among the extant editions, the most influential is the Heshanggong version, named after the legendary Heshanggong (Riverside Sage), who is said to have lived during the reign of Emperor Wen of Han (180–157 BC). The two earliest surviving editions are: Laozi, written on bamboo tablets, found in a tomb near Guodian, Hubei, dating back prior to 300 BC; and another, also titled Laozi, known as the Mawangdui silk texts, found in a tomb dating from 168 BC. Shown here are the prefaces, table of contents, and juan one of a Song edition, printed in Jian’an by the Yu Family school. It is an early edition and very rare. It was consecutively owned by Huang Pilie, Tieqintongjianlou Library of the Qu family, and the studio of Chen Qinghua, Xunzhai, before entering the collections of the National Library of China.

The Iron Brush of Ju Kungao, Two Juan

Ju Lühou (1723−86), style name Kungao, a native of Fengxian, Shanghai, was a seal artist. Seal carving was one of the four essential skills required of a scholar. Ju was also the author of a number of works, among which are Kungao tie bi (Iron brush by Kungao), in two juan, Kungao tie bi yu ji (Remaining works of Kungao), in five juan, and Yin wen kao lue (A brief study on inscriptions on seals), in one juan. This work is a manual about seals collected by Ju. On these seals are carved inscriptions of wise words and aphorisms by ancient authors. The preface and postscript were handwritten in the kai (standard) style. The work represents refinement and elegance and is pleasing to the eyes. Seals usually were made of stone, but sometimes also of metal or wood. Making them required a sophisticated command of both calligraphy and carving. This work is considered a masterpiece of seal art from the middle of the Qing dynasty.

Collected Literary Works of Li Taibai

Li Bo (also called Li Bai, 701−762), courtesy name Taibai, style name Qinglian Jushi, was called, among his other nicknames, Shi xian (Immortal poet) and Shi xia (Poet-knight-errant). His work Li Taibai ji (Collected works of Li Taibai) has been handed down from generation to generation. The earliest edition was compiled by Wei Hao, Li Yangbing, and Fan Chuanzheng, three Tang scholars, but these works did not survive. The first printed edition dated back to the third year of Yuanfeng (1080) of the Song and was printed by Yan Zhizhi, prefect of Suzhou; thus it was called the Su edition. It was edited by historian and literary author Song Minqiu (1019−79) and was published in 30 juan. It was partly based on the work kept in Wang Pu’s personal library, entitled Li Bo shi ji (Collected poems of Li Bo). The other source was Li Hanlin ji (Collected works of Li Hanlin), in two juan, edited by Wei Wan of the Tang. Later the work was edited again and re-issued by Zeng Gong (1019−83), who did painstaking textual research and put the poems in the correct order. The original Su edition no longer exists. The earliest reprint is a Song edition that was printed in Sichuan and thus was called the Shu (another name for Sichuan) edition. There is a third edition printed in the 56th year (1717) during the Kangxi reign, by Miao Yueqi, who had acquired a Shu copy from a Xu family of Kunshan, which he edited and printed; it is thus called the Miao edition. Shown here is a reprint of the Shu edition; however juan 15−24 come from the Miao edition.