Manuscript for Stele Inscription of Xuanmiaoguan Temple Gate in Standard Script


Manuscript for Stele Inscription of Xuanmiaoguan Temple Gate in Standard Script

calligraphy / Yuan Dynasty / China

By Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322)

Place of production:China

Yuan dynasty, 14th century

Ink on paper


This scroll is a manuscript for the inscription on a stele commemorating repairs to the main gate of Xuanmiaoguan Temple. Xuanmiaoguan is a Daoist temple in Suzhou in southeastern China. Its founding dates back to the 3rd century, during the Western Jin Dynasty. Its name then changed numerous times until it was renamed Xuanmiaoguan at the end of the 13th century, under the Yuan dynasty, and was granted an inscribed tablet by the emperor. On that occasion, Xuanmiaoguan’s main temple, called the “Hall of Three Purities” was repaired, followed by its main gate, called the “Triple Gate,” and two steles with inscriptions were erected to commemorate the event. Both inscriptions were drafted by a person named Mou Yan and then rendered in calligraphy by Zhao Mengfu. Zhao Mengfu was an exemplary Yuan-Dynasty intellectual who was active from the late 13th century to the early 14th century, and particularly excelled at calligraphy.

This work is not dated, but given the contents of the inscription and Zhao Mengfu’s official position, Zhao Mengfu probably wrote it when he was between 49 and 56 years old. The heading that begins the manuscript is gracefully executed in the rounded script used for seals. The body of the manuscript, in contrast, is written in elegant standard script distinguished by its well-proportioned characters and the strong, supple quality of its lines. Zhao Mengfu’s calligraphy in these and similar stele inscriptions is based on the style of Eastern Jin- and Tang-Dynasty calligraphers such as Li Yong, who was active in the early 8th century.

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