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Calligraphy on Tea

The artistic writing of words is called calligraphy. It is not only a technique, but also contains the essence of life, vital energy and spirit. Many calligraphers feel that good calligraphic works are not only a skill gained through long-term cultivation of thought, but also have a lot to do with the state of mind at the time of writing. Tea can keep people sober-minded and make them feel as if they are filling the cosmos. Perhaps just because of this special relationship between tea and calligraphy, many calligraphers like drinking tea. So tea calligraphy which took poems about tea or the word "tea" as its subject became a special preference of painters and calligraphers. Many famous calligraphers had "tea copybooks," or wrote poems on tea in calligraphic form as a way of expressing their art and thoughts.

Tea formed ties with calligraphy very early. Early in the period when Lu Yu created the primary system of Chinese tea culture and compiled the Book of Tea, calligraphers took an active part in tea culture activities. Yan Zhenqing, Lu Yu's good friend despite their great difference in age, was well-known as the originator of Yan-style calligraphy. Quite a lot of people knew that Yan was a famous calligrapher, but did not know his official rank or political achievement. After Confucianism Yan Zhenqing made Mends with hermit Lu Yu and monk Jiao Ran in Huzhou, they cooperated with each other in many respects, and advocated the combination of tea with calligraphy for the first time. Take the famous Three-Gui Pavilion for example. The pavilion was named for its building on the dale, month and year of gui, the last of the ten Heavenly Stems. In Taoism word "three" implies "bearing everything on earth," while Lu, Jiao and Yan were three persons. According to investigations, Lu Yu designed the pavilion, Jiao Ran wrote a poem for it as a memento, and Yan Zhenqing engraved its history on a stone tablet. These were called three superb works of art- Thus, from the Tang Dynasty, calligraphy on tea officially became an important part of tea culture.

In the Song Dynasty, Emperor Huizong liked tea, poems and calligraphy. He wrote An Exposition on Tea and some essays on tea, painted tea paintings, or inscribed poems on tea paintings with the special artistic temperament of a calligrapher. His calligraphy was called thin tendon style. From his painting Scholars Gathering, a superb work of art combining paintings, poems, calligraphy, and tea banquets, we can see his and his ministers' inscribed poems and calligraphy.

In the Ming Dynasty, Tang Yin and Wen Zhengming had a good command of tea art, poems and paintings. Here Zheng Banqiao, one of the "eight strange persons of Yangzhou" in the Qing Dynasty, is noteworthy. He was also called Zheng Xie, and he styled himself Kerou. Born in Xinghua, Jiangsu Province, he was a famous calligrapher, painter and poet, and was, therefore, called a superb person in three aspects. He was especially expert at painting orchids. black bamboo, and strange stones, and his strokes were beautiful and vigorous. His poems strived for realism, freedom and generosity, while his calligraphy blended official script, regular script, cursive script, and grass script. Also, he liked tea. In Ms poem Prefecture Chief Presenting Tea to Me When I Lived in Yanzbou, he wrote: "The quality tea was given to you by the late ministers Cai Xiang and Ding Wei in Heaven; How should I have thought that you would present it to me?" From this we can see that Zheng Banqiao, as an artist expert at tea, poems and paintings, knew the history of tea very well.

Owing to the special relationship between tea and calligraphy, many great calligraphers wrote special books on calligraphy models of "tea" for appreciation. Some people collected calligraphy models of "tea" to compile a book for comparative study. For example, they put the calligraphy models of "tea," taken from Xuanmi Tower, Explanation and Study of Principles of Composition of Characters and works written by such famous calligraphers as Yan zhenqing, Mi Fu, Xu Wei, Su Guo, Dong Qichang, Zhang Ruitu, Wang Tingjun, Wu Changshuo, Zhao Mengfu, and Zheng Banqiao together in a book on calligraphy models. Although regular script, official script, grass script, seal script, and cursive script were put together on a page, they did not look rigid at all.