Shanghai Museum ed: CHUNHUA GE TIE ZUI SHANBEN. (The Finest Editions of Calligraphic Rubbings from the Chunhua Mige Pavilion). Shanghai, 2003. 54; 43; 37; 33 openings. Full-colour Reproductions of rubbings throughout. 4 vols. 37x27 cm. Accordion-style, between boards, in an elaborate, traditional cloth case.
A facsimile edition produced to the highest standards in order to celebrate the return to China of one of calligraphy's most important cultural treasures. Four volumes of rubbings from the Chunhua Ge had found their way into the collection of the American dealer and connoisseur, Robert H. Ellsworth. These were exhibited in the Forbidden City in Beijing in 1996 and subsequently entered the Shanghai Museum collection in 2003. The late scholar calligrapher, Qi Gong, called this the most important cultural restitution since Liberation. The Chinese government paid US 4.5 million for these four volumes.
In 992 A.D., the Northern Song Chunhua emperor (Song Taizong) commissioned Wang Zhu to copy and carve selected masterpieces of calligraphy in the imperial collections, dating from the Han to the Tang. Most authorities cite this project as the beginning of the Chinese practice of making reproductions of fine art calligraphy (fatie) in the form of ink rubbings taken from intaglio carving of the originals onto stone or wood. It is almost certainly the first official sponsorship of this important cultural practice, which quickly became a parallel calligraphic tradition, doing almost as much to establish the canon of early masterworks as extant original calligraphy itself (ink traces of the actual brush). This collection of carvings and the rubbings made from them became known variously as the 'Chunhua Ge Tie', or 'Chunhua Mige Fatie', often simplified to 'Guan Tie', or 'Ge Tie'. The first set of rubbings made is thought to have been produced in 10 juan or volumes and most subsequent editions follow this format.
Three of the volumes now in the Shanghai Museum collection, all reproduced here, are believed to come from the the very first set of rubbings made from the original carvings. Volumes 6, 7 and 8 (of the complete 10) are three of those devoted to the work of China's greatest calligrapher, Wang Xizhi. Thus they form something of a coherent (sub)set and previous collectors clearly treated them as such. The fourth volume reproduced in this facsimile, also acquired from the Ellsworth collection, is a single volume 4 with a separate earlier provenance. Somewhat bizarrely, careful comparative examination of the rubbings reveals that it is volumes 4, 7 and 8 that come from the original first rubbings (from the inscriptions in their pristine state). Volume 6 nonetheless comes from a 'second-best' Northern Song rubbing. For the purposes of contemporary scholarship, the Shanghai Museum's curators and editors clearly and rightly believed that it was important to bring all of these early rubbings together as volumes from the two earliest editions of the collection that constitutes the very fountainhead of Chinese calligraphy as manifested in rubbings.
All four volumes do a very good job of reproducing every aspect of the original, including format and binding. Boards for all four are colour-printed with photographic representation of the original patterned brocades, even reproducing wear to the originals. The single 'fourth' volume, somewhat larger in size, reproduces the wooden boards of the original; the other three volumes seem to have covers based on brocade-covered paper boards. In all volumes, the facsimile extends to all preliminaries, including labels, colophons and seals. The colouring of, and wear to, the paper on which the rubbings themselves are mounted in the accordion-style volumes is very well-reproduced. Most importantly, the facsimile rubbings themselves make a very good impression, which immediately evokes the exemplary quality of the originals from which they are taken. Most of the apparatus for these volumes is sensitively included in the facsimile of the 'fourth' volume. There is a table of contents, three substantial essays (in Chinese only) on the associated connoisseurship by Chen Xiejun, Wang Qingzheng and Sun Weizu. Transcriptions into modern characters of all the calligraphy are given in the final openings of each separate volume. All text in Chinese.
One of a deluxe edition limited to 1000 copies. Immediately went out-of-print in China and has become highly sought-after.
Subjects: Calligraphy Rubbings
Available, as of: 26/04/2018
Was item 642 in printed List 192.
Record produced by Hanshan Tang Books, www.hanshan.com.