In the history of the Chinese written language, few individuals have had as deep or lasting impact as Li Si. While it is unknown exactly when he was born, Li Si would, at a remarkably young age, become a figure central to the chaotic era that saw the first unification of China. Receiving instruction from the great Confucian philosopher Xun Zi (荀子/Hsun Tsu), Li Si moved to the state of Qin and was accepted as a counsellor of King Zheng (glossary: Qin Shi Huang) who would go on to conquer the other Chinese states and become the first Emperor.
When dealing with the origins of Chinese Clligraphy, it is often difficult to find existent examples of ancient calligraphy that can be verifiably attributed to the correct artist. Such is the case with Zhang Zhi. Most of what we know about him comes in the form of much later criticism of his works. In fact, no-one has yet been able to determine exactly when he was born. The date of his death in 192 CE, however, places him in the waning years of the Han Dynasty. Moreover, historians are relatively certain that he was born in Yuanquan County, Dunhuang Province (present-day Jiuquan, Guansu Province) in the northwest of China.
A Short Biography of Wang Xi Zhi Wang Xi Zhi (王羲之/Wang Hsi Chih)
The influence of Wang Xi Zhi (303-361 CE) on the Chinese Calligraphy tradition cannot be overstated. While there were certainly famous calligraphers who preceded Wang, not one of them has had the lasting effect of the so-called Sage of Calligraphy (書聖/Shu Sheng).
A Brief Biography of Yan Zhen Qing (顏真卿/Yen Chen Ch’ing)
As the Tang dynasty wore on, a figure arose who would redefine calligraphy, challenging even Wang Xi Zhi as the pre-eminent calligrapher. Yan Zhen Qing (709-785 CE) is sometimes known as the ‘second prophet’ of calligraphy. This status, just slightly behind Wang Xi Zhi, is more likely due to his later historical period than to any quantifiable difference in skill.
A Short Biography of Zhao Meng Fu (趙孟頫/Chao Meng Fu)
The transition from the Song Dynasty to the Yuan was a turbulent time in China. In the artistic tradition, one man more than any other embodied the difficulties and opportunities presented by both the fall of an ailing dynasty and the assertion of foreign rule. Zhao Meng Fu (1254-1322), a descendent of the Song royal family, survived the fall of the Song and lived to gain great acclaim as a calligrapher and artist. Although he was linked by blood to the previous dynasty, Zhao nevertheless wholeheartedly promoted the legitimacy of Mongol rule in China. As a result many scholars in his own time and in the later Ming Dynasty criticized him as little better than a traitor.