A Conversation between Confucius and Bu Shang

A closer look at this manuscript by the renowned calligrapher Ouyang Xun (557-641)

By The Palace Museum

Bu Shang Studying, Running Regular Script by Ouyang Xun (557-641)The Palace Museum

This calligraphic text by Ouyang Xun is about one of Confucius' most distinguished pupils, Bu Shang; he was often known by Zixia, his courtesy name. From the State of Wei, he lived during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BCE).

Showing excellence in philosophical reasoning, he would often engage in discourse with his master and diligently heeded his teachings.

Originally recorded in the Commentary on the Book of Documents (Shangshu dazhuan), the text describes when Bu Shang finished his studies and spoke with his master. 

Confucius asks his disciple about his studies, and Bu Shang responds that

he has received great clarity and guidance from his studies and that he would never forget the teachings of his master.

This manuscript was accomplished by the celebrated calligrapher Ouyang Xun.

The calligrapher used plentiful ink in this double-hook (shuanggou) style. While strictly executing his calligraphic method, the artist did not fail to include an air of vivacity. His beginning and ending strokes show strong squared characteristics in the hard turns of the brush. 

Ouyang Xun combined brush techniques of the northern epigraphic style (called beibei) with the style of the Two Wangs (i.e., Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi). His unique mélange of northern and southern styles became known as the Ou style.

This piece of model calligraphy (tie, also known as an exemplar) in particular is a quintessential work of Ouyang Xun's regular script. Centuries later, the work was added to the collection of An Qi during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) and finally entered into the imperial collection of the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795).

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