Letter to the Buddhist Layman Wuxiang
The lines of this work were brushed without hesitation, soaring with the movement of the brush, while the characters seem to tilt forward to the left as they go. It seems as if little attention was paid to the shapes of the characters, or the overall appearance of this text. The characters are bold, seeming to spread out to both sides.
The calligrapher of this work was Dahui Zonggao, a Chan Buddhist monk who lived between the end of the Northern Song dynasty and the beginning of the Southern Song dynasty in China. He was taught Chan Buddhism by Yuanwu Keqin, who was deeply respected by the emperors of the Northern and Southern Song dynasties. He was active at some of the largest Zen temples, including Wanshou temple in Jingshanzhen, and the Temple of King Ashoka in Ayuwangshan. At one time he had more than 2,000 disciples. However, he was persecuted by the diplomat Qin Hui, and exiled to Hengzhou in Hunan province and then to Meizhou in Guangdong province for 15 years, from the time he was 53.
This calligraphy was written while he was in Meizhou, or somewhere around that time, and it is thought to be a letter he wrote to his disciple, the Buddhist layman Wuxiang. With its vivid lettering, this famous piece appears to reflect the deep spirituality of Dahui, as he was unbroken even by the difficulty of living deep in the countryside.