Album of stele Rubbings of Calligraphy by Wang Xizhi

Unknown4th Century

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum

This famous album of rubbings is known as the Seventeenth Album because its first line commences with the characters for “seventeen.” It is regarded as a masterwork for its representation of the cursive script of legendary calligrapher Wang Xizhi (303–361) of the Eastern Jin dynasty. The album consists primarily of letters believed to have been addressed to Zhou Fu of Shu (modern-day Sichuan).
The calligraphy itself survives in the form of rubbings taken from stone stele engravings of the texts. This edition of rubbings from the Ueno collection has in its postscript a large character meaning “imperial edict,” followed by an inscription describing how the stone engraving of the calligraphy was produced with utmost meticulousness for the purpose of study and practice of calligraphy by teachers and students of the Great Literary Academy (Hongwenguan) by calligrapher and chancellor Chu Suiliang (597–658), who served the Tang Emperor Taizong (r. 626-649). Because of this inscription, this version of the rubbing is sometimes called the “Academy” (guan) edition.
During the Kangxi era (1662–1722) of the Qing dynasty, this album was owned by the renowned calligrapher Jiang Chenying (1628–1699). It was later acquired by distinguished scholar Luo Zhenyu (1866–1940) before entering the collection of Ueno Yūchikusai (1848-1919). Known today as the Ueno Edition of the Seventeenth Album, this album has long been considered the finest extant copy of this calligraphy.

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