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Chinese Literature
Shupin 書品 "Classification of Calligraphy"


The Shupin 書品 "Classification of calligraphy" is a book on ancient calligraphy written by the Liang period 梁 (502-557) scholar Yu Jianwu 庾肩吾 (487-551). The author, courtesy name Yu Zishen 庾子慎 or Yu Shenzhi 庾慎之, came from Xinye 新野 (modern Xinye, Henan ) and was a famous writer and poet of his times. Except the small book Shupin he has also written the critique Shuduan 書斷 and a collection of biographies called Nanshi benzhuan 南史本傳.
His Shupin is one of the oldest book on the theory of calligraphy. It critically investigates the works of more than 120 calligraphers from the Han 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) to the Liang period and classifies them into nine different categories, according to the official categorization of eminent families during that time (zhongzhengpin 中正品). The best calligraphies were, according to Yu Jianwu, produced by Zhang Zhi 張芝, Zhong Yao 鍾繇 and Wang Xizhi 王羲之. Their style was profound and exhausted the artist's spirit in the shape of characters and words to such an extent that Yu called them "deification" (shenhua 神化) of the meaning. The judgment of Yu Jianwu is quite reliable because he was an expert in the super-running "grass script" (caoshu 草書) himself. The lowest category included calligraphers like Xie Lingyun 謝靈運, Yang Gu 羊祜 and Pei Miao 裴邈. While a lot of the actual calligraphies, viz. copies of these, are lost, the book Shupin at least informs the reader about the wide range of different personal styles and abilities of calligraphers during the Han and Southern Dynasties period 南朝 (420~589).
The Shupin is included in the collectanea Xu baichuan xuehai 續百川學海, Guang Han-Wei congshu 廣漢魏叢書, Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈, Fashu yaolu 法書要錄, Shuofu 說郛, Sipin huichao 四品匯抄, Yanbei ouchao 硯北偶抄, Hubei xianzheng yishu 湖北先正遺書 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1794. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

August 24, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail