Sung Dynasty (960 - 1179)

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Sung Dynasty Territory



The Sung Dynasty was rich in cultural heritage but weak in national defense. Perhaps because of the indirect influence of the Sung Dynasty’s weak military power, calligraphy could not be compared on the same level with the Jin and Tang Dynasties. This was also due to the Sung emperors’ favor of painting and neglect of calligraphy. This is one of the reasons why there were more master calligraphers in the earlier dynasties.   


Confucianism had a great influence on Chinese society development. It neglected science and technology. In the ancient China, the ordinary people could become a government officer by writing good articles with beautiful calligraphy in the civil service examinations. They eventually ranked higher than those officers with martial arts abilities and military achievements. Calligraphy played a vital role in the civil service examination system, and the examination was the only way for most people to become a noble class.


All of the four famous calligraphers of the Sung Dynasty, Su Shi, Huang Ting-Jiang, Mi Fu and Tsai Hsiang, invented their own styles based on studying Yen Jen-Ching’s calligraphy during their early lifetime. Among the Four Great Master of Sung calligraphy, Mi Fu was considered the best for his brushstroke skills.  



Su Shi ( ) 1037-1101

He was more capable in literature and poetry than in calligraphy.  He is also known as Su Dong-Po.





Huang Ting-Jian ( 庭堅 ) 1045-1105

His Running & Walking Styles of calligraphy were expressive. His filial piety was featured in the book “The Twenty-Four Filial Piety Stories.”






Mi Fu ( 米芾 ) 1051-1107

He was widely considered the best calligrapher in the Sung Dynasty. He specialized in the Hanging Arm Technique in operating a brush to generate unique flowing and connecting effects in Walking and Running Styles.  Some say that he could not compete with calligraphers in the Tang Dynasty; others say that his skills actually exceeded most of them. He was also a good painter and connoisseur. He had copied some ancient masterpieces and even tricked some connoisseurs as well as collectors.


This work was sold for U.S. $3,988,997 in an auction in 2002.



    MiFu(b).jpg (118478 bytes)MiFu(a).jpg (120535 bytes)  

Wang Hsian-Chih's writing presumably copied by Mi Fu




Tsai Hsiang (  ) 1012-1067

He was also a politician and scholar. His achievement in Hsin Style was considered higher than in his Kai Style.





Yueh Fei ( ) 1103-1142

A national hero in Chinese history, he also invented Mind Form Boxing ”Hsing Yi Chuan ( 意拳 )” which was once forbidden by the government as a powerful martial arts style. Shown here is the famous General Yueh Fei’s writing “Give back my land!

More about Yueh Fei:





Emperor Hui Zong ( 徽宗 ) 1082-1135

He invented the Skinny Golden Style ( 金體 ) calligraphy. He was also an extremely renowned painter. 





Emperor Gao Zong ( 高宗 ) 1107-1187

The 9th son of Hui Zong. He gave up learning Huang Ting-Jian’s and Mi Fu’s calligraphy and later focused mainly on the calligraphy styles of  the Two Wangs (Wang Hsi-Chih and his son, Wang Hsian-Chih.)




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