Copy of the “Half-Stele of Xingfu Temple” in running-standard script

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Artist: Bada Shanren 八大山人 (朱耷) (1626-1705) Colophon by Tang Yunsong (jinshi 1840)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1699
Ink on paper
H x W (max. image): 25.3 x 8.8 cm (9 15/16 x 3 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Bequest from the collection of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai, donated in their memory by Mr. Shao F. Wang
Shao F. Wang collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Calligraphy


China, copy, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Shao F. Wang collection, WWII-era provenance

To 1997
Wang Fangyu (1913-1997) and Sum Wai (1918-1996), to 1997 [1]

To 1998
Shao F. Wang, New York and Short Hills, NJ, by descent, to 1998 [2]

From 1998
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Shao F. Wang in 1998


[1] According to Curatorial Note 2, Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, May 7, 1998, and Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, August 18, 1998, in the object record.

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s)

Shao F. Wang
Wang Fangyu 1913-1997
Sum Wai 1918 - 1996


During the Wanli reign period (1573-1620) of the Ming dynasty, a dredging project in the moat outside the southern wall of Chang'an (modern Xi'an, Shaanxi Province) exposed a broken grave stele from the Tang dynasty (618-907). This stele, which originally stood on the grounds of the Xingfu Temple located a short distance south of the city, contained the text that Bada Shanren transcribed in this twenty-leaf album.

The forms of the individual characters on the stone were ostensibly copied from authentic examples of running script by the famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi (ca. 303-ca. 361 C.E.), while an otherwise unidentified eighth-century monk named Daya was responsible for selecting, copying, and rearranging Wang's original characters into the new text. The stele originally contained thirty-five vertical lines of text with some fifty characters in each; however, only the bottom portion of the stone survived at the time of its discovery and each column of text was cut roughly in half. While these losses render a coherent reading (or translation) of the text impossible, numerous scholars and epigraphers have recognized the stele as one of the finest surviving examples of Wang Xizhi's calligraphy in running script, as it was understood and practiced during the Tang dynasty.

Bada Shanren's interest in the text was based solely on its calligraphic pedigree leading back to Wang Xizhi, but although he states in his postscript that he had "copied" the work, he actually executed this album in his own style of running-standard script, rather than as a close imitation of Wang's calligraphy. Working from a rubbing of the stone, such as the one displayed on the opposite wall, he wrote out the Half-Stele as a continuous whole and did not indicate breaks between the columns or places where the original text was missing. Despite some infelicities, Bada's rendition of the text is apparently among the earliest calligraphic transcriptions of the ancient stele known to survive.

Published References
  • Joseph Chang, Quianshen Bai, Catalogue by Stephen Allee. In Pursuit of Heavenly Harmony: Paintings and Calligraphy by Bada Shanren from the Bequest of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 20, pp. 98-105.
  • Thomas Lawton Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 244-251.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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