Top 10 calligraphy masterpieces of ancient China

By Xu Lin
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 Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion(《兰亭序》)

Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion, one of the 'top 10 calligraphy masterpieces of ancient China' by

Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion

The "Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion" is the most famous calligraphy work of Wang Xizhi, composed in 353. Carrying an extremely high artistic value, this work is known as one of the three running script calligraphy masterpieces. The other two are the "Draft of a Requiem to My Nephew" by Yan Zhenqing and the "Cold Food Observance" by Su Shi.

Wang Xizhi (303-361) was a Chinese calligrapher, traditionally referred to as the Sage of Calligraphy, who lived during the Jin Dynasty (265-420). He is considered by many to be one of the most esteemed Chinese calligraphers of all time, especially during and after the Tang Dynasty, and a master of all forms of Chinese calligraphy, and of running script in particular.

The work describes a gathering of 42 literati at the Orchid Pavilion near the town of Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, during the Spring and Brightness Festival, to compose poems and enjoy wine. Wang wrote a preface for the collection of all the poems they created at the occasion. Consisting of 324 Chinese characters in 28 lines, the preface records the beauty of natural scene around the pavilion and the happy time that they spent together and also describes the emotions of life.

Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty admired the work so much that the original copy was said to be buried with the emperor in his mausoleum. However, there are a number of fine tracing copies and rubbings now.

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