Friday, February 18, 2011

Inspiration for Tai Chi: Master Calligrapher Wang Xizhi

Wang Xizhi (王羲之, 303–361), one of my favorite Chinese calligraphers, lived during the Jin Dynasty (265–420). He is considered by many to be one of the most esteemed Chinese calligraphers of all time, and is often referred to as the Sage of Calligraphy (書聖). He learned his art from Wei Shuo (衛鑠; 272–349), commonly known as Madame Wei, a master calligrapher at that time.

Wang Xizhi loved geese. According to legend, he learned the secret of how to turn his wrist while writing by observing how the geese moved their necks. Wang Xizhi also had a very clear pond in his backyard. After every use of his brush, he washed off the ink in the pond. Day after day, the clear pond turned black. People called it the “Black Ink Pond.” No matter if he was walking or resting, Wang Xizhi always kept thinking about how to improve his writing skills. The structure of the words never left his head. He even practiced writing without a brush in his hand by moving his fingers on his clothes. After time, his clothes would wear right through.

In Chinese, there is a saying “Ru Mu San Fen.” Its literal meaning means “carving into timber three-tenths inches deep.” Its metaphorical meaning is used to describe words that are penetrating, profound and convincing. One time, the emperor asked Wang Xizhi to write some words for Chinese Memorial Day. He ordered him to write the words on a wooden board and then asked a wood carver to carve the board. When the wood carver did his job, he was amazed. He cut layer after layer and could still see ink. He found that Wang Xizhi had already written the words inside the wood. He couldn’t help but praise: “Wang’s words were really like a knife carving into the wood.”

These stories show how creative and diligent this master calligrapher was. I hope the image of his writing will speak for itself. If we can practice our Tai Chi the way Wang Xizhi practiced his calligraphy, we will then be able to really master the art.

Copyrigthed by Huan's Tai Chi 2011

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