Four anecdotes from the life of Wang Xizhi

Artist: Zhao Mengfu (Chinese, 1254–1322)

Period: Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

Date: 1310s

Culture: China

Medium: Handscroll; ink on paper

Dimensions: Image: 9 5/8 x 46 1/16 in. (24.4 x 117 cm)
Overall with mounting: 10 7/16 in. x 27 ft. 1 1/8 in. (26.5 x 851.2 cm)

Classification: Calligraphy

Credit Line: Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988

Accession Number: 1989.363.30


The emperor Yuan Renzong (r. 1312–20) is said to have remarked that no one could compare with Zhao Mengfu, who possessed seven outstanding qualities: Song royal ancestry, elegant appearance, wide learning, pure character and righteous conduct, literary accomplishment, skill in calligraphy and painting, and profound knowledge of Buddhist and Daoist teachings.

As a leading calligrapher, Zhao advocated a return to ancient models, successfully integrating styles of the Jin (265–420) and Tang (618-907) dynasties to create a new synthesis in both regular and cursive scripts. During the fourteenth century, the typefaces of printed books were modeled after his regular script, while his cursive script, seen here, formed the basis for many later writers' informal writing styles.

Four Anecdotes from the Life of Wang Xizhi testifies to Zhao's devotion to the "Sage of Calligraphy," Wang Xizhi (303–361). Strongly influenced by Wang's style, this scroll dates to about 1310.