This is a study of the earliest and finest collated inscription in the history of Chinese calligraphy, the Ji Wang shengjiao xu 集王聖教序 (Preface to the Sacred Teaching Scriptures Translated by Xuanzang in Wang Xizhi’s Collated Characters), which was erected on January 1, 673. The stele records the two texts written by the Tang emperors Taizong (599–649) and Gaozong (628–683) in honor of the monk Xuanzang (d. 664) and the Buddhist scripture Xin jing (Heart Sutra), collated in the semi-cursive characters of the great master of Chinese calligraphy, Wang Xizhi (303–361). It is thus a Buddhist inscription that combines Buddhist authority, political power, and artistic charm in one single monument.
Buddhism and calligraphy are two key aspects of Chinese civilization, the former, albeit of foreign origin had a profound impact on the Chinese cultural world, whereas the latter is indigenous to China and epitomizes the aesthetic ideal of Chinese literati. Both of these dimensions interconnect symbiotically in the Ji Wang shengjiao xu. This inscription not only testifies to the varied manifestations that Buddhist art has produced in its encounter with different cultures, but it is also the greatest example of “Buddhist calligraphy.”
The book builds up a picture of the multifaceted context in which the inscription was devised, aiming at highlighting the specific role calligraphy played in the propagation and protection of Buddhism in medieval China. At the same time, it offers an insight into the stele’s artistic quality, as well as a reconstruction of the phases of the collation work supervised by the monk Huairen of the Hongfu Monastery in Chang’an.
For the author's video presentation, see here
Chapter One: Buddhism and Calligraphy in Medieval China
Chapter Two: Wang Xizhi’s Calligraphy and the Semi-cursive Script
Chapter Three: The Ji Wang shengjiao xu and Its Texts
Chapter Four: The Context of the Erection of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu
Chapter Five: A History of the Location of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu
Chapter Six: The Collation of Wang Xizhi’s Characters for the
Ji Wang shengjiao xu
Chapter Seven: The Carving of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu
Chapter Eight: The Shape and the Calligraphy of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu
Glossary of Calligraphic Terms