Wang Xizhi

Wang Xizhi ([wǎŋ ɕí.ʈʂɻ̩́]; Chinese: 王羲之; 303–361) was a Chinese calligrapher, politician, general and writer during the Jin dynasty. He was best known for his mastery of Chinese calligraphy. Wang is sometimes regarded as the greatest Chinese calligrapher in Chinese history, and was a master of all forms of Chinese calligraphy, especially the running script. Furthermore, he is known as one of the Four Talented Calligraphers (四賢) in Chinese calligraphy.[1] Emperor Taizong of Tang admired his works so much that the original Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion (or Lanting Xu) was said to be buried with the emperor in his mausoleum.

Wang Xizhi
Wang Hsichih.jpg
Wang Xizhi
Born303 or 321
Linyi, Langya, Eastern Jin
Died361 (aged 57–58)
379 (aged 57–58)
Jinting, Huaiji, Eastern Jin
OccupationCalligrapher, politician, writer
Notable work
Preface to the Collection of Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion
Children7 sons, including Wang Xianzhi & 1 daughter (Wang Mengjiang)
RelativesWang Dao (uncle)
Wang Qia (younger male cousin)
Chinese name
Lantingji Xu by Wang Xizhi

In addition to the artistic talent in which continues to be held in high esteem in modern China, he has been and remains an influential figure in East Asian calligraphy, particularly Japanese calligraphy.

His tomb was severely damaged during the Cultural Revolution.


Born in Linyi, Langya Commandery (modern Linyi, Shandong), Wang belonged to the powerful and prominent Wang clan of Langya. In his youth, the War of the Eight Princes and subsequent invasions of the Five Barbarians led to turmoil in northern China and Western Jin's collapse; as such the ten-year-old Wang Xizhi moved south with his clan, and spent most of his life in present-day Shaoxing and Wenzhou of Zhejiang province.

He learned the art of calligraphy from Lady Wei Shuo. He excelled in every script but particularly in semi-cursive script. His representative works include, in chronological order, Narration on Yue Yi (樂毅論), The Yellow Court Classic (黃庭經), Commentaries on the Portrait of Dongfang Shuo (東方朔畫讚), Admonitions to the Emperor from the Imperial Mentor (太師箴), Preface to the Collection of Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion (蘭亭集序, also commonly known as Lantingji Xu), and The Statement of Pledge (告誓文).[2] Unfortunately, none of his original works remains today, and only models of them exist. Samples of Wang's handwriting can also be seen in classical Chinese calligraphy texts such as the Chunhua Imperial Archive of Calligraphy Exemplars (淳化閣帖).[3]

Painting of Wang Xizhi by Qian Xuan (1235-1305 AD).

His most noted and famous work is the Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion, the introduction to a collection of poems written by a number of poets during a gathering at Lanting near the town of Shaoxing for the Spring Purification Festival. The original is lost, but the work survives in a number of finely traced copies, with the earliest and most well regarded copy being the one made between c. 627-650 by Feng Chengsu, and it is located in the Palace Museum in Beijing.

Wang Xizhi is particularly remembered for one of his hobbies, that of rearing geese. Legend has it that he learned that the key to how to turn his wrist whilst writing was to observe how geese moved their necks. There is a small porcelain cup depicting Wang Xizhi "walking geese" in the China Gallery of the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore. The other side of the cup depicts a scholar "taking a zither to a friend".

Wang Xizhi had seven children, all of whom were notable calligraphers. The most distinguished was his youngest son, Wang Xianzhi.

In 2010, a small Tang dynasty reproduction of one of Wang's calligraphy scrolls on silk with four lines was sold in China at an auction for ¥308 million RMB ($48 million).[4]


"Ru Mu San Fen" is used to describe strong and powerful calligraphy works , and also to describe profound and thorough understanding of articles or things. The emperor went to the northern suburbs for sacrifice. He asked Wang xizhi to write the blessing words on a piece of wood and then send workers to carve it. The engraver was shocked because Wang xizhi's handwriting penetrated more than a third of the wood. He said admiringly: "the character of the general of the right army is “Ru mu san fen”.[5]

He used to practice writing near the pond, and when he finished, he would wash his brush and ink-stone in the pond. Over time, the water of the whole pond turned black. This shows how much effort he has made into practicing calligraphy.[6]

He loved geese very much. He looked at the geese splashing in the river in a daze. Later, he comprehended the principle of calligraphy from the movements of the geese, which helped his calligraphy skills.[7]

Mei Zhi TieEdit


“Mei Zhi Tie”, is a copy featuring 17 characters written by Wang Xizhi. It got its name from the word "meizhi" at the beginning of the article. It was first exhibited in 1973 at the "Showa Lanting Memorial Exhibition". It has two lines and 17 words. The work does not include inscriptions and collection marks.[8]

It was exhibited by the "Chinese and Japanese Calligraphy Treasures Exhibition" on March 12, 2006 in Shanghai.[9]



  1. ^ "A Narrative on Calligraphy". Vincent's Calligraphy. Retrieved 2017-11-15.
  2. ^ "A Narrative on Calligraphy Part VII". Vincent's Calligraphy. Retrieved 2018-01-03.
  3. ^ "Wang Xizhi exemplary works (I)". Vincent's Calligraphy. Retrieved 2019-04-22.
  4. ^ "Rare Chinese calligraphy scroll fetches $46m at auction". BBC NEWS ASIA-PACIFIC. 22 November 2010. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  5. ^ "入木三分的故事_入木三分的典故 - 成语故事". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  6. ^ "王羲之刻苦练字,染黑水池,传世名作竟然这样诞生". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  7. ^ "优质资讯推荐_腾讯网". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  8. ^ "王羲之《妹至帖》". Retrieved 2020-04-29.
  9. ^ "海外漂泊1300年 《丧乱帖》昨空降上海". Retrieved 2020-04-29.

Works citedEdit

  • Knechtges, David R. (2014). "Wang Xizhi (王羲之)". In Knechtges, David R.; Chang, Taiping (eds.). Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature: A Reference Guide, Part Two. Leiden: Brill. pp. 1257–62. ISBN 978-90-04-19240-9.
  • Li, Siyong, "Wang Xizhi". Encyclopedia of China (Chinese Literature Edition), 1st ed.
  • Khoo Seow Hwa and Penrose, Nancy L, Behind the Brushstrokes: Tales from Chinese Calligraphy. Singapore: Graham Brash, 1993.

External linksEdit