Flower-fragrance_Observance
Huā Qì Xūn Rén Tiē (Flowers’ Fragrance) (花氣薰人帖) Album leaf, ink on paper, 30.7 x 43.2 cm, National Palace Museum, Taipei (國立故宮博物院)

 

花氣薰人欲破禪。心情其實過中年。春來詩思何所似。八節灘頭上水船。

 

花氣薰人欲破禪。

Huā qì xūn rén yù pò chán.

聞到一股濃郁的花香,彷彿使(平日苦苦修習的)禪定功夫,都被破除了。

The fragrance of flowers are so intoxicating that it threatens my Zen’s mediation.

 

心情其實過中年。

Xīn qíng qí shí guò zhōng niá

年紀已過了中年,(心情竟然被花香所感動。)

I have passed middle age, (I am still vulnerable to mundane desires.)

 

春來詩思何所似。

Chūn lái shī sī hé suǒ shì.

到了春天,應該有靈感寫詩,但是好像…

Spring comes, I should have inspirations to write poems, why am I like that….(no motivations to write…)

 

八節灘頭上水船。

Bā jié tāntóu shàng shuǐ chuán.

在一層一層逆水的八節灘灘頭,船要上行,(真是其艱難啊!)

The boat is struggling upstream against the rapid water in Bā Jié Tān (八節灘).

 

Bā Jié Tān (Beach) (八節灘) was mentioned in the preface of a poem by Bái Jūyì (白居易), a great poet in the Táng Dynasty, “ South of Dōng Dū Lóng Mén Tán(東都龍門潭), located Bā Jié Tān (Beach), Jiǔ Qiào Shí (cliff) (九峭石). When boats sailed through those places, they are bounded to be damaged to a certain extent.”  The location is near Luò Yáng (洛陽) in Hé Nán (河南).

 

It is difficult to figure out the meaning behind this poem. However, Huang wrote to his good friend Wáng Gǒng (王鞏) in 1087 saying that Wáng Jìnqīng (Shēn) 王晉卿 (詵) sent him poems to ask for his complimentary poems (「和」他的詩). Huang did not like to do so. Wang was so cunning, he kept on sending flowers to Huang reminding him to respond. Huang playfully replied with this piece.

元祐二年(1087)寄揚州友人王鞏二詩之後,前有識語:“王晉卿 (詵) 數送詩來索和,老懶不喜作,此曹狡猾,又頻送花來促詩,戲答。”

 

Wáng Shēn (王詵) has married a princess and liked to befriend scholars. He asked Huang to write a poem to respond to his own.  Huang was really reluctant to do so and wrote this poem in a cheeky way to explain why he could not get the right inspiration.

當時,著名的駙馬爺王詵,喜歡寫詩,寫好後,又喜歡附庸風雅,找來當代大詩人黃庭堅「和」他的詩。但黃庭堅大概是不想附和王詵的詩,所以寫了一首詩托辭找不到靈感。

 

This piece of calligraphy is made up of 4 sentences, each contains 7 words. Those 28 words are in 4¼ rows. The characters of the first two sentences are more close together, the characters of the last two sentences less so. This gives a good rhythm. The words are in cursive scripts but not linked together except for the two last words 破禪 in the first row, and the last two words 何所 in the third row.

The two characters 破禪 are joined
The two words 破禪 are linked together.

 

 

Flower-fragrance_Observance
The two words 何所 are linked together.

 

The last word 中 of the second row is long and gives greater contrast and dynamic interaction with other words.

Flower-fragrance_Observance (2)
The word 中 is long and stylish. The last two words 何所 are particular fluent and highly artistic.

 

The brushwork is strong and upright, and the ink varies between moist and dry. The last three words 上水船 was written in dry ink. This gives a strong impression of the struggle to advance the boat.

hqxr

 

hqxr (2)

水船

 

This piece was not signed nor dated by Huang. Some scholars suggested that this was executed around 1102 (instead of 1087) when Huang was 57 years old.

 

Huang Tingjian (黃庭堅) (1045–1105), also known as Lǔ Zhí (魯直), Shān Gǔ (山谷), Fú Wēng (涪翁). He was a native of Hóng Zhōu Fēn Níng (洪州分寧) (now Jiangxi Xiushui County 江西修水縣).  Huang was a Chinese calligrapher, poet, scholar and government official of the Song Dynasty. He was one of the Four Calligrapher Masters of the Song Dynasty (宋四大家).

Huang Tingjian passed his imperial Chin-shih examination (登進士第) in 1067 and was granted some posts in the government. At the time, there were two major parties, a “reform” party lead by Wang Anshi (王安石) and a “conservative” party, which included prominent officials such as Sima Guang (司馬光), Ouyang Xiu (歐陽修) and Su Shi (蘇軾). As Emperor Shenzong (神宗) increasingly favoured Wang Anshi’s New Policies, as they were known, their opponents suffered politically.  This included exile for Su Shi, beginning in 1080 to Hangzhou. Huang Tingjian was falsely accused of conspiracy. After 1086, Wang Anshi’s party was out of favour, and Wang Anshi himself was forced into retirement. Huang and other exiles were recalled from their places of banishment.

However, Su Shi and Huang Tingjian were repeatedly caught up in the political in-fighting in the Imperial Court and had to endure several cycles of exile and pardon.

Su died in 1101 and Huang died in 1105 in Yí zhōu (宜州)(now Guǎngxī Province廣西).

 

 

Further reading / viewing :

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvwwswqOgWs 20130722《殷瑗小聚》中國美術史–宋代書法家:黃庭堅)(Excellent presentation on Flowers’ Fragrance from 10:24 to 18:49)

http://www.chinaonlinemuseum.com/calligraphy-huang-tingjian-huaqixunren.php (Flowers’ Fragrance (花氣薰人帖)

http://tech2.npm.gov.tw/sung/html/graphic/c_t2_1_a16.htm 七言詩(花氣薰人帖

http://www.epochtimes.com/b5/1/9/12/c5637.htm (蔣勳) (excellent reading)

http://blog.udn.com/damifel/801945 (good explanation)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2YNj8UM6yM (modern presentation by National Palace Museum)

Alfreda Murck (2000) Poetry and Painting in Song China – The Subtle Art of Dissent, Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series, 50, ISBN 978-0-674-00782-6 (Excellent English translation)

Ouyang Z and Wen C.F. (2008) Chinese Calligraphy, Yale University Press, ISBN 978-0-300-12107-0

 

 

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