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Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb


The early work of an iconic calligraphy master of the Tang Dynasty (618-907) was found for the first time in an archaeological excavation, according to an announcement at a Friday news conference in Xi'an, capital of Shaanxi province.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
The ancient tomb of Yuan Daqian and his wife Luo Wanshun in Gongdong
Village of Qinhan New City, part of the Xixian New Area, northwest
China's Shaanxi Province [Credit: Xinhua]




An epitaph from an unearthed tomb in the Xixian New Area, on the city's outskirts, was written by Yan Zhenqing (709-784), according to the name inscribed on the stele.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
The coffin platform found at the burial chamber of the ancient tomb of Yuan Daqian and his wife
Luo Wanshun in Gongdong Village of Qinhan New City, part of the Xixian New Area,
northwest China's Shaanxi Province [Credit: Xinhua]


Yan is considered to have been one of the most important calligraphers in Chinese fine art history. His regular script, commonly known as Yan Script, attracted many imitators in later times.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
The tombstones excavated from the ancient tomb of Yuan Daqian and his wife
 Luo Wanshun in Gongdong Village of Qinhan New City, part of the Xixian
New Area, northwest China's Shaanxi Province [Credit: Xinhua]


Since June, over 100 tombs from both Han (202 BC-220 AD) and Tang dynasties have been discovered in an area reserved for the upcoming construction of government buildings, according to Xu Weihong, a researcher with the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, also the leading archaeologist on the site.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Yan Zhenqing wrote the epitaph of Dan Luo Wanshun
[Credit: Li Yangbo, Wenhui]


The epitaph with Yan's calligraphy belongs to a woman and was part of a graveyard of a family of nobles. The woman, named Luo Wanshun, died in 746, according to the epitaph. She was the wife of Yuan Daqian, a 7th-generation grandson of a prince of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) and a military commander.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
The epitaph on a tombstone excavated from the ancient tomb of Yuan Daqian
and his wife Luo Wanshun in Gongdong Village of Qinhan New City,
part of the Xixian New Area, northwest China's Shaanxi Province
[Credit: Li Yangbo, Wenhui]


"It is consistent with the time-line of Yan's life in historical recordings," Xu said. "We can thus have a better understanding of him and his calligraphic works."


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Yan Zhenqing's epitaph of Dan Luo Wanshun shows his early calligraphy style
[Credit: Li Yangbo, Wenhui]




Xu cited historical recordings that showed Yan became a local official of Chang'an-today's Xi'an-in charge of public security in 746. She also said that inviting Yan to write the epitaph showed the woman's high social status.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Yan Zhenqing's epitaph of Dan Luo Wanshun shows his early calligraphy style 
[Credit: Li Yangbo, Wenhui]


As a politician and military general, Yan also gained fame for loyalty and bravery. During the chaotic An Shi Rebellion from 755 to 763, which led to the decline of the mighty Tang Dynasty from the apex of national power, he organized people to fight against the rebels and later became a minister-level official. He was killed during another rebellion after refusing to surrender.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Famous statesman and calligrapher of the Tang Dynasty, Yan Zhenqing (709-August 23, 784)
[Credit: Sina]


Chen Genyuan, a researcher with Xi'an Beilin Museum, known for its carved stone relics, said Yan is considered to have been an outstanding mix of admirable personal traits and extraordinary achievements in fine art, adding that cannot be said for some other famous calligraphers in ancient China.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
High-foot silver cup unearthed from the tomb of the Yuan family
[Credit: Xinhua]


"We admire beauty, but we also admire righteousness, which is also highlighted in Chinese calligraphy," Chen said.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Animal figurines unearthed from the tomb of the Yuan family
[Credit: Xinhua]


"Yan's newly unearthed early work shows elegance that will provide a crucial reference to see his evolving calligraphic styles," he added. "We will be able to know how his art reached its peak during the later years, when it was famed for its grand aura and strength.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Pig figurine excavated from the ancient tomb of Yuan Daqian and his wife Luo Wanshun in
Gongdong Village of Qinhan New City, part of the Xixian New Area, northwest
China's Shaanxi Province [Credit: Xinhua]




"For Chinese calligraphy, he was the top master following Wang Xizhi," Chen said, referring to the 4th-century artistic guru, but none of Wang's original work has come to light.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Camel figurine excavated from the ancient tomb of Yuan Daqian and his wife Luo Wanshun in
Gongdong Village of Qinhan New City, part of the Xixian New Area, northwest
China's Shaanxi Province [Credit: Xinhua]


Chang'an was capital of the Tang Dynasty, and many tombs of royals, nobles and celebrities can be found around the city.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Figurine excavated from the ancient tomb of Yuan Daqian and his wife Luo Wanshun in
Gongdong Village of Qinhan New City, part of the Xixian New Area, northwest
China's Shaanxi Province [Credit: Xinhua]


The newly found tombs have great value for scholars, apart from calligraphy. Over 100 relics, including coins, figurines and jars, were found at the gravesite of Yuan and Luo, which was 35.8 meters long and 9.5 meters deep, but no human remains were found in the tomb's chamber.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Figurine excavated from the ancient tomb of Yuan Daqian and his wife Luo Wanshun in 
Gongdong Village of Qinhan New City, part of the Xixian New Area, northwest 
China's Shaanxi Province [Credit: Xinhua]


Xu said studies of the epitaphs and historical files showed that Yuan's family had close connections with royals and a family member became an in-law of Li Longji-Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty. The couple's epitaphs were drafted by the emperor's nephew.


Tang master calligrapher's early work found at tomb
Porcelain jar excavated from the ancient tomb of Yuan Daqian and his wife Luo Wanshun in
Gongdong Village of Qinhan New City, part of the Xixian New Area, northwest
China's Shaanxi Province [Credit: Xinhua]


"The discovery also enriches our knowledge of nobles' graves around Chang'an and provides new information on the Tang royals' literary work," Xu said.


Source: China Daily [November 20, 2020]



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