Wang Xizhi, TheSage of Calligraphy

Wang Xizhi

Anyone who’s interested in Chinese Calligraphic Culture or making a cartoon movie about some Chinese Titans in cultural sense (Remember Mulan the ancient Chinese heroine? Yes I’m pointing to Disney!), or merely looking for some funny stories about some ancient celebrities should definitely take a look at Wang Xizhi’s story. Although knowned as the Sage of Calligraphy, this man’s story is not that serious at all. In stead, his story is of great fun!

When it comes to the Chinese Calligraphy, anyone who’s familiar with the Chinese culture would at once point to a very famous work called “Lan Ting Xu” (Preface of the Orchid Pavilion) hand-written by Wang Xizhi. And that leads us to Wang’s Family in the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317–420). Well, you can simply call it the family of calligraphers.

“Lan Ting Xu” (Preface of the Orchid Pavilion)

So, how many outstanding calligraphers did the Wang’s family raise? Quite a few I suppose. Wang Xizhi’s grandfather had eight children, four of them were raised to become top-of-the-line calligraphers. Luckily, Wang Xizhi’s father Wang Kuang was one of them. But two of his uncles, Wang Dao and Wang Yi, were way better at calligraphy compared to his fahter. And Later on, five of Wang Xizhi’s cousins grew up to be great calligraphers, too. As you can see, Wang’s family is genuinely a family of excellent calligraphers, you don’t even need to take a look at the younger generation of the Wang’s family.

Such a distinguished family would surely be the target of other prominent families when it came to choosing husbands for the young ladies. It was said that at that time, a government official in charge of the military affairs called Chi Jian was looking for a perfect match for his daughter Chi Xuan, who was a very talented young woman with an adorable look. So the official sent a subordinate to the Wang’s family to seek the perfect match. All the other young men of the Wang’s family were decently dressed up that day and they greeted the official’s subordinate politely, except Wang Xizhi, the only maverick. He was just sitting on his bed with his pajamas on, and eating in peace. The subordinate reported every single detail he saw in the Wang’s family to the official, and the official shouted: “I want that maverick to be my daughter’s husband! That’s him!” Just because Wang Xizhi’s bed was in the east side of the house, “The Eastern Bed” was made into a commendatory term praising a husband.

After marriage, Wang Xizhi and his wife raised seven children, and every single one of them mastered great calligraphic skills as well. Five of them had even been remembered by the history, just like their father, several uncles and great-uncles. But Wang Xizhi is undoubtedly the best among them. When you look carefully at the five descendants’ works, you’ll find one of them had inherited the rhythm of Wang Xizhi’s calligraphy, one got the shape, one got the momentum, one got the look, and the final one got the essence. The final one’s called Wang Xianzhi, and as the best among the five, he’s almost as good as his father.

What’s even more surprising is many female in Wang’s family were excellent calligraphers as well. Wang Xizhi’s wife, for example, was called “the Fairy of Calligraphy” at that time. Even the woman babysitting Wang Xianzhi was capable of writing great scripts, too.

We’re now 1,700 years away from Wang Xizhi’s time, I don’t know whether all the skyscrapers and modern technologies would have amazed the Wang’s family just as the scene behind the walls of their house would have amazed us. Maybe the so-called “living culture” is just about Purity. It’s about convening the people who share the same hobby, willing to devote and work together.