Poems in Running Script
This scroll contains three poems in running script composed by Mi Fu, one of the most notable calligraphers of the Northern Song Dynasty, who was active from the second half of the 11th century to the start of the 12th century. The scroll is named after Hong County, which is now Si County, Suzhou in northern Anhui Province. A segment of the Grand Canal completed by the early 7th-century Song Dynasty emperor Yang runs through this region, making it a scenic riverside district.
Mi Fu traveled along this canal in a boat loaded with a lot of paintings and calligraphy while coming and going between the then-capital of Kaifeng in Henan Province and the various districts of Jiangsu and Anhui Provinces in which he served as an official. Aboard his boat, he would unroll and savor deeply beloved painting and calligraphy, and express the scenery of the various districts he saw or his occasional passions in verse. The poems written on this scroll tell of moonlit nights spent with works of art and a ship moving past beautiful flowers blooming on the riverside.
The solid and blurred strokes of the calligraphy are distinct, and even the blurred portions are written with a steady brush. The lines are imbued with both keenness and strength. As the script progresses, the sizes of the characters and thickness of the lines become richly varied, and the calligraphy takes on an even greater sense of dynamism. There is no signature, but the seams in the paper and the end of the poems are stamped with Mi Fu’s seal. Based on the style of the calligraphy, Mi Fu is thought to have written this piece when he was approximately 56 years old and had been appointed to serve as a judge and teacher of painting and calligraphy at the imperial court. It is renowned as a representative work of Mi Fu’s final years.