Engraved Calligraphy in Woodblock Print Books (QI Xiaochun)
Abstract: What is “engraved calligraphy”? Generally speaking, everything in old books that is hand carved onto the printing-block, including handwritten character forms or book-engraver forms which developed out of handwritten character forms, may be referred to as “engraved calligraphy”. Extant old books from the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing periods contain abundant examples of “engraved calligraphy”.
Why should we study “engraved calligraphy”? From the perspective of art historical research we may say that, firstly, research on the history of calligraphy really developed out of studying calligraphers, their extant works as well as treatises on calligraphy. For this reason the gathering of calligraphic material from all periods is one of the basic foundations of this field. Secondly, apart from the handwriting of distinguished calligraphers we also find examples of the handwritings of politicians, thinkers, literati scholars, poets, painters and the like from all periods among extant “engraved calligraphy”. These reflect their calligraphic style and aesthetic taste and therefore present important evidence in investigating the connection between the artist and their work of art. Thirdly, “engraved calligraphy” found in old books for the most part shows examples of the highest level of handwriting, which makes them highly valuable material from the perspective of calligraphy as an art form. Fourthly, the study of “engraved calligraphy” not only remedies the lack of original material in the field of the history of calligraphy, but can also be used as a means of investigating the calligraphic fashion and aesthetic trends of the time that they were produced in. This is a new approach that hasn’t been attempted so far in the field of calligraphy history.
This lecture will make use of the speaker’s recently published book Examples of Engraved Calligraphy in Old Books to discuss and resolve the above mentioned problems.