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Chinese Literature
Shushi huiyao 書史會要 "Important Matters in the History of Calligraphy"


The Shushi huiyao 書史會要 "Important matters in the history of calligraphy" is a book on calligraphy written by the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Tao Zongyi 陶宗儀. The book is 9 juan "scrolls" long, with an supplementary appendix of 1 juan. The book is arranged chronologically and discusses oeuvres and skills of 450 ancient calligraphers from mythical times to the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). The last juan includes a theoretical discussion on the art of calligraphy. The individual discussions begin with a short biography and a description of the individual character, which was very common in historical biographies in China. Not all biographies are helpful because of a lot of masters, only the name has survived. Tao Zongyi then goes on to discuss the artistical skills of each person. His book is very important to gain an overview on the lives and creations of ancient calligraphers. It provides information that is not to be found in other books, like the ornamental script in the kedou 蝌蚪 (also written 科斗) "tadpole" style thought to have been created by Cang Jie 倉頡, the mythical inventor of the Chinese script. Tao Zongyi also explains that before the invention of ink an brush, people used to write with bamboo twig, lacquer and bamboo slips. The Shushui huiyao also explains foreign scripts, like those of India 天竺, Japan, that of the Western Xia 西夏 (Tanguts), the kingdom of Dali 大理, and the Persian script used by the Muslims (Huihui 回回) in the Western regions.
The Shushui huiyao was first printed during the early Ming period, and then by Zhu Tonghong 朱統鉷, who published this book together with his father's (Zhu Mouyin 朱謀垔) supplement Shushi huiyao xubian 書史會要續編. The private library Baqianjuanlou 八千卷樓 owned a manuscript version. It is also included in the collectanea Baichuan xuehai 百川學海 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書. In 1984 the Shanghai shudian press 上海書店 published a modern version, based on the first printed edition.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1807. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

August 30, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail