Weng Fanggang: 1. Su Wenzhong’s farewell letter to Gongfu, undated. Songshi: Benzhuan
records Guo Gongfu’s career differently than Dongdu shilue
. Recently I came across a short biography of Guo Gongfu in Fan Xie’s Songshi jishi
: “In the middle of the Yuanfeng reign [1078-1085] he served as Prefect of Duanzhou. Early in the Yuanyou reign [1086-1094] he rose to the position of Grand Master of Court Audience. He subsequently retired from service due to age.” In Dongpo ji
I read an “Imperial Order to Promote Guo Xiangzheng to Fengyi lang
[Court Gentleman Consultant]”: “We inherit from the six dynasties and bestow upon the four kingdoms.” This was at the beginning of Emperor Zhezong’s Yuanyou reign. Songshi: Wenyuanzhuan
records that Guo “followed Zhang Chun in the middle of the Xining reign to inspect the border, serving as Dianzhong zhai
[Palace Administrator]. Later he left the palace to become Magistrate of Dingzhou. After rising to become Prefect of Duanzhou, he left office again and recluded in Qingshan, where he passed away.” In a cave in Duanzhou I saw this inscription by Guo Gongfu: “On the twenty-eigth day of the second month in the wuchen
year of the Yuanyou reign (1088), Guo Xiangzheng, Zigong, of Dangtu has arrived to manage prefectural affairs.” In the next year he submitted a request to be released from service, and retired in the fourth year of the Yuanyou reign (1089). Therefore Fan Xie’s claim—that Guo Gongfu was Prefect of Duanzhou in the middle of the Yuanfeng reign and became Grand Master of Court Audience and then retired early in the Yuanyou reign—is mistaken. Guo’s position was Court Gentleman Consultant. In the twenty-four ranks of the Song official system, this was precisely the same as Palace Administrator. In other words, early in the Yuanyou reign he left the position of Court Gentleman Consultant, and thereupon left for Dingzhou and Duanzhou. Zhang Chun was promoted as Investigation Commissioner [Chafang shi
] in Hunan and Hubei by Wang Anshi early in the Xining reign (1068-1077), which is consistent with Guo Gongfu’s career trajectory as recorded in Wenyuanzhuan.
The letters to Guo Gongfu recorded in Su Dongpo’s literary collection were all written during Su’s time in Hangzhou. Su went to Hangzhou to serve as Tongpan
[Controller-General] in the eleventh month of the fourth year of the Xining reign (1071), which was when Gongfu was a Court Genteman Consultant. To conclude, Su wrote this letter in the fourth or fifth year of the Xining reign, when he was thirty-six or thirty-seven years old. Spirited and lively, illuminating past and present—it is truly a divine piece of calligraphy by Su Dongpo. These two lines are worth thirty-thousand bamboo strips! In autumn Shi the Attendant Gentleman [Shilang
] brought the piece to show me, and so I conducted some general research of its history, wrote it down as an appendix, and composed poetry in its praise. On the second day of the ninth month in autumn in the fifty-fifth year of the Qianlong reign (1790), written by Weng Fanggang of Beiping at Baosuzhai.
2. Master Su, where did you bid Zigong farewell? I suspect in Hangzhou, where you both served. A sympathetic missive, speaking of parting, Suddenly brings a chill to a student of your ways. Who transmitted drunken verses at Red Cliff? An immortal in a gem-filled room faced with a jade chess set. At the mouth of Qixing Grottos, words awaited recording; In Xiejiazhuang paintings were not yet transmitted. Gnarled and furious ink traces generate bamboo and rocks, Rising and falling like seas, swirling like thunder clouds. This parting having occurred ten years ago, Your stomach for wine has been empty. Between two whiskered faces a moody atmosphere lingers, Like a dance of swords and a rumble of dragons. Two biscuits, fresh tea, and a small grey wall; A jade inkpot issues dragon-pine smoke. Elder Mi smiles wielding a brush at his desk, Having come to dine with another expert of ink. Who knows that parting thoughts need few words. But these nine jet-black pearls, all pure and perfect? Who captures the bright moon by the sand bank? Against rough winds snow birds touch the sky. If in previous lives one lived on Penglai Island, Why must one seek pure lotuses on Pure Peak? Nine flowers in a vase--who will obtain them? An otherworldly connection across a decade and ten thousand miles. From a few yellow orioles the essence of calligraphy is derived, Expressed like warhorses on a thousand peaks, like a swirling ravine. Come yet to Su’s studio to meet the real object, The Songyang tie
being already obscured by pink paper. This year I intend to make a matching scroll painting, And make tea with Hui Spring’s water on Yunlong Mountain. Thinking of the drunken brush by Two Cranes Pavilion Is like drunkenly chanting the Guzhipian
. Dead trees stand in the misty painted universe. The force of this calligrapher’s hand can move mountains and streams. Shadows remain on the wall of Su’s studio. Night dreams are lodged in the floating jade boat. The sea scintillates under the bright mid-autumn moon. After rain I meditate on the Chan of plum blossoms.
3. The master painted bamboos and rocks on Guo Gongfu’s wall in jiazi
the seventh year of the Yuanfeng reign (1084). Gongfu retired from service in Duanzhou in jisi
the fourth year of the Yuanyou reign (1089). Zha Chubai in Su Shi buzhu
claims that after Gongfu’s retirement, Su Shi painted bamboos and rocks at the Zuiyin’an. This awaits verification. Appended by Fanggang.
Xu Hanqing: 1. Master Po’s Gongfu tie is plain and forceful, written with a brush manner derived from bafen and clerical scripts. Among all his calligraphies I have seen, this piece is the best. It passed through the eminent collections of Xiang Zijing, An Yizhou, Jiang Qiushi, and others. When Zijing owned the piece, it was mounted with another leaf of Song paper. The poetry and colophon that Weng Tanxi wrote for Qiushi are on this paper. Weng’s small standard-script calligraphy is energetic and expansive, infused with a feeling of elation. His rigorous research gave him a privileged vintage on everything. The trace copy on paper, also by Master Tanxi, is miraculous like the original. I obtained it from a descendent of the Master of the Yingxuzhai, and it is far superior to Master Yang Xingwu’s printed version. I thus had the trace copy mounted with the original. Written in the twelth month of the guisi year (1953) by Xu Hanqing, aged seventy-one, at Shenyu’s Shengguangzhai.
2. Last winter when I wrote the several lines on the right, I suddenly went into a daze and wrote skewed and illegible characters. I cannot help being saddened by my deterioriation at old age. I write this note now that I have recovered somewhat. On huazhao of the jiawu year (1954), Hanqing.
3. Immortal Po’s kingly ink traces, Elder Tan’s excellent calligraphy—both utmost treasures in the world. Recorded in mid-spring of the jiawu year (1954), after I viewed the work again.
4. Here I append an impression of the Song-dynasty rhinoceros horn seal saying “Zizhan” that I previously owned. Spring of the jiawu year (1954), Hanqing.