Wang Xizhi ([wǎŋ ɕí.ʈʂɻ̩́]; Chinese: 王羲之; AD 303–361) was a Chinese politician and writer from the Jin dynasty (266–420) known for his mastery of Chinese calligraphy. Wang is often regarded as the greatest calligrapher in Chinese history. He was a master of all forms of Chinese calligraphy, especially the running script.[1] Emperor Taizong of Tang admired his works so much that Wang's work, the Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion (or Lantingji Xu) was said to be buried with the emperor in his mausoleum.

Wang's artistic talent continues to be held in high esteem in China, and he remains an influential figure in East Asian calligraphy, particularly Japanese calligraphy.


Born in Linyi, Langya Commandery (modern Linyi, Shandong), Wang belonged to the powerful and prominent Wang clan of Langya. In his youth, the War of the Eight Princes and subsequent rebellions of the Five Barbarians led to turmoil in northern China and the Western Jin's collapse; as such the ten-year-old Wang Xizhi moved south with his clan, and spent most of his life in present-day Shaoxing and Wenzhou of modern-day Zhejiang province.

Wang Xizhi is particularly remembered for one of his hobbies, that of rearing geese. Legend has it that he learned that the key to how to turn his wrist whilst writing was to observe how geese moved their necks. He loved geese very much. He looked at the geese splashing in the river in a daze. Later, he comprehended the principle of calligraphy from the movements of the geese, which helped his calligraphy skills.[2] There is a small porcelain cup depicting Wang Xizhi "walking geese" in the China Gallery of the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. The other side of the cup depicts a scholar "taking a zither to a friend".[citation needed]

He used to practice writing near a pond, and when he finished, he would wash his brush and ink-stone in the pond. Over time, the water of the whole pond turned black. This shows how much effort he has made into practicing calligraphy.

When the emperor of the time went to the northern suburbs for sacrifice, he asked Wang Xizhi to write the words of blessing on a piece of wood and send workers to carve it. The engraver was shocked because Wang Xizhi's handwriting penetrated more than a third of the wood. He said admiringly "the character of the general of the right army is "Ru mu san fen", which is used to describe strong and powerful calligraphy works, and also to describe a thorough understanding of things.[3]

Wang Xizhi had seven children, all of whom were notable calligraphers. The most distinguished was his youngest son, Wang Xianzhi.


Wang Xizhi as depicted in the album Portraits of Famous Men c. 1900, housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

He learned the art of calligraphy from Lady Wei Shuo. He excelled in every script but was particularly skilled in semi-cursive script. His representative works include, in chronological order, Narration on Yue Yi (樂毅論), The Yellow Court Classic (黃庭經), Commentaries on the Portrait of Dongfang Shuo (東方朔畫讚), Admonitions to the Emperor from the Imperial Mentor (太師箴), Preface to the Collection of Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion (蘭亭集序, also commonly known as Lantingji Xu), and The Statement of Pledge (告誓文).[4] Unfortunately, none of his original works remains today, and only models of them exist. Samples of Wang's handwriting can also be seen in classical Chinese calligraphic texts such as the Chunhua Imperial Archive of Calligraphy Exemplars (淳化閣帖).[5] His most well-known work, Lantingji Xu, is an introduction to a collection of poems written by several poets during a gathering at Lanting (near the town of Shaoxing) for the Spring Purification Festival. The original is now lost, but the work survives in a number of finely traced copies, with the earliest and most well regarded copy being the one made between c. 627–650 by Feng Chengsu, and is located in the Palace Museum in Beijing.

In 2010, a small Tang dynasty reproduction of one of Wang's calligraphy scrolls on silk with four lines was sold in China at an auction for ¥308 million RMB ($48 million).[6]

Mei Zhi Tie

Lantingji Xu by Wang Xizhi

"Mei Zhi Tie", is a copy featuring 17 characters written by Wang Xizhi. The name came from the word "meizhi" at the beginning of the article. It was first exhibited in 1973 at the "Showa Lanting Memorial Exhibition". The work does not include inscriptions and collection marks.

It was exhibited by the "Chinese and Japanese Calligraphy Treasures Exhibition" on 12 March 2006 in Shanghai.[7]


Kuaixueshiqing (快雪時晴帖


  1. ^ "A Narrative on Calligraphy". Vincent's Calligraphy. Retrieved 15 November 2017.
  2. ^ "优质资讯推荐_腾讯网". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  3. ^ "入木三分的故事_入木三分的典故 - 成语故事". Retrieved 29 April 2020.
  4. ^ "A Narrative on Calligraphy Part VII". Vincent's Calligraphy. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  5. ^ "Wang Xizhi exemplary works (I)". Vincent's Calligraphy. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  6. ^ "Rare Chinese calligraphy scroll fetches $46m at auction". BBC NEWS ASIA-PACIFIC. 22 November 2010. Retrieved 29 August 2011.
  7. ^ "海外漂泊1300年 《丧乱帖》昨空降上海". Retrieved 29 April 2020.

Works cited

  • Knechtges, David R. (2014). "Wang Xizhi (王羲之)". In Knechtges, David R.; Chang, Taiping (eds.). Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature: A Reference Guide, Part Two. Leiden: Brill. pp. 1257–62. ISBN 978-90-04-19240-9.
  • Li, Siyong, "Wang Xizhi". Encyclopedia of China (Chinese Literature Edition), 1st ed.
  • Khoo Seow Hwa and Penrose, Nancy L, Behind the Brushstrokes: Tales from Chinese Calligraphy. Singapore: Graham Brash, 1993.

External links

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