The Art of Calligraphy in Asia

Calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing, was long considered the supreme art form in China, Japan, and Korea. This elevated status reflects the importance of the written word in East Asian cultures. In ancient China, early emperors asserted their power by engraving edicts or pronouncements on stone in their own calligraphic script. The elite members of society were scholar­officials, whose status was attained by their command of the written word. In addition to the central role played by writing in Chinese culture, the visual form of the language also contributed to the distinctiveness of the calligraphic tradition. The vast number and complexity of the characters that make up the Chinese script presented artists with a unique platform on which to explore the creative possibilities of design. 
The writing of Chinese characters-which was then widely adopted in Korea around the fourth century and in Japan in the mid-sixth century-was thought to be the purest visual manifestation of the writer's inner character and level of cultivation. It was the medium through which a person's thoughts, feelings, and artistry were best conveyed. In looking at a piece of calligraphy, we may admire the way a calligrapher manipulated the brush to create an object of beauty in which rhythmic energy is conveyed through strokes and dots done with ink. Changes in ink gradation, the relationship between characters, and the elegance of a single line can entice viewers regardless of the legibility of the text. The calligraphy on display in this installation, dating from the fourth century to the present day, demonstrates the written language's lasting appeal as a vehicle for creating highly individualized works of art. 

  • 84975
    Japanese, Nara period, 710–794
    Sumidera Heart Sutra (Sumidera shingyō 隅寺心経), 8th century
  • 28405
    Japanese, Heian period, 794–1185
    Divisions of Vowed Morality Sutra (J: Komponsetsu issai ubu binya; Skt: Mūlasarvāstivada nikaya vinaya sūtra), from Jingoji Temple , ca. 1150
  • 42179
    Page of Calligraphy, recto and verso, 9th century AD
  • 54849
    Iranian Arabic/Quran
    Page of Calligraphy, late 19th century
  • 55167
    Japanese, Edo period, 1600–1868
    Suzuki Harunobu 鈴木春信, 1725?–1770
    Lighting a Lamp-Sunset Glow (Andōn no sekishō), ca. 1766
  • 60805
    Japanese, Edo period, 1600–1868
    Utagawa Kunisada 歌川国貞, 1786–1865
    Published by Hiranoya Shinzō
    Iwai Kumesaburō III as Princess Wakana raising a large spider through incantation, 1861
  • 14443
    Japanese, Edo period, 1600–1868
    Keisai Eisen, 1790–1848
    A View of Yoshiwara
  • 57118
    Japanese, Edo period, 1600–1868
    Yamaguchi Shidō 山口志道, 1765–1842
    Mount Fuji of Poems (Hyakushu Fuji 百首富士), 1842
  • 37265
    Japanese, possibly Edo period, 1600–1868
    Flower basket with high handle and bamboo insert
    1998-844 a-b
  • 36394
    Chinese, Ming dynasty, 1368–1644
    Wen Zhengming 文徵明, 1470–1559
    Poem on Lake Taiye, undated
  • 36654
    Chinese, Ming dynasty, 1368–1644
    Wang Duo 王鐸, 1592 - 1652
    Calligraphy after Wang Xizhi, 1643
  • 32095
    Chinese, Ming dynasty, 1368–1644, early Qing dynasty, 1644–1912
    Fu Shan 傅山, 1607–1684/85
    "Clearing at Dusk," A Poem by Tu Fu, undated
  • 36409
    Chinese, Qing dynasty, 1644–1912
    Zha Shibiao 查士標, 1615–1698
    Poem on Greenwood Shade and Azure Mountains, undated
  • 32103
    Chinese, Qing dynasty, 1644–1912
    Jin Nong 金農, 1687–1764
    Bamboo and Calligraphy, 1750
  • 35203
    Chinese, Eastern Jin dynasty, 317–420
    Wang Xizhi 王羲之, 303–361
    Ritual to Pray for Good Harvest (Xingrang tie 行穰帖), undated
  • 36644
    Chinese, Southern Song dynasty, 1127–1279
    Gaozong [宋]高宗, 1107 - 1187, r. 1127-1162
    Quatrain on an Autumn Fan, undated
    1998-75 a
  • 36659
    Chinese, Southern Song dynasty, 1127–1279
    Yang Meizi 楊妹子, 1162 - 1232
    Quatrain on Autumn, undated
    1998-75 b
  • 33737
    Chinese, Northern Song dynasty, 960–1127
    Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅, 1045 - 1105
    Scroll for Zhang Datong (Zeng Zhang Datong guwen ti ji 贈張大同古文 **), 1100
  • 36273
    Chinese, Yuan dynasty, 1260–1368
    Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫, 1254–1322
    Record of the Miaoyan Monastery (Huzhou Miaoyansi ji 湖州妙巖寺記), ca. 1309–10
  • 42733
    Chinese, Qing dynasty, 1644–1912
    Weng Tonghe 翁同龢, 1830–1904
    One-stroke Tiger, early morning (3:00–5:00 a.m.), February 24, 1902