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.
Since its first arrival in China in the Han, Buddhism has put down deep roots in Chinese society. Although Buddhism did not originate in China, to say that it is a ‘foreign’ religion is to disregard the majority of Chinese history, in which Buddhism played a major role. Moreover, the Buddhism that evolved in China is different from any other iteration of the religion, and must be considered in its cultural and societal context, according to its own characteristics. In general, Chinese Buddhism has emphasized meditation and monasticism above scripture and doctrine: the pursuit of enlightenment is achieved through casting aside the ‘illusions’ of text and even the physical sensations of the world.