1st Edition

Protecting the Dharma through Calligraphy in Tang China A Study of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu 集王聖教序 The Preface to the Buddhist Scriptures Engraved on Stone in Wang Xizhi’s Collated Characters

By Pietro De Laurentis Copyright 2022
    478 Pages 71 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    478 Pages 71 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    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. The present book reconstructs the multifaceted context in which the stele was devised, aiming at highlighting the specific role calligraphy played in the propagation and protection of Buddhism in medieval China.



    Buddhism and Calligraphy in Medieval China


    Wang Xizhi’s Calligraphy and the Semi-cursive Script (Xingshu 行書)


    The Ji Wang shengjiao xu and Its Texts


    The Context of the Erection of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu


    A History of the Location of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu


    The Collation of Wang Xizhi’s Characters for the Ji Wang shengjiao xu


    The Carving of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu


    The Shape and the Calligraphy of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu



    Appendix I: Transcription and Translation of the Ji Wang shengjiao xu

    Appendix II: A Survey of Collated Inscriptions in Wang Xizhi’s Characters



    Complete Reproduction of Mitsui Ji Wang 1 (Folios 1-36)



    Glossary of Calligraphic Terms

    General Index


    Pietro De Laurentis was born in southern Italy and studied Sinology at the University of Naples “L’Orientale,” where he received his Ph.D. in East Asian Studies in 2007. He was trained in Chinese philology and Chinese calligraphy, theoretical and practical, in Hangzhou, Tianjin, and Shanghai. From 2010 to 2016 he was Research Fellow at the University of Naples “L’Orientale,” where he taught Literary Chinese and Modern Chinese. He is currently chair professor at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts.

    "De Laurentis endeavors from the outset to ensure that the volume does not simply examine the technical aspects of the inscription and the significance and impact it had on Chinese calligraphy, but particularly seeks to also explore the wider background of the monument’s erection, it's broader impact on the religious landscape, and the specific motivations behind its construction. [...] Although this volume will be of greatest worth to those interested in early Chinese Buddhism, those with a broader interest in Chinese religion as a whole will have much to gain from De Laurentis’ attention to the multifaceted context in which the stele was erected."

    Joseph Chadwin, University of Vienna, Religious Studies Review (vol. 48/2, pp. 290-291)

    "De Laurentis s’efforce de situer la place de l’inscription des Saints enseignements dans l’histoire de la calligraphie chinoise. L’intérêt qu’elle a suscité chez les calligraphes et les collectionneurs d’estampages est manifeste puisqu’elle représente le plus vaste des écrits de Wang Xizhi (ou plutôt exécuté avec les caractères de Wang Xizhi). [...] À La démonstration patiente, minutieuse, enthiusiaste et parfaitement documentée de Pietro De Laurentis vient s’ajouter un ensemble de documents annexes: la transcription et la traduction du texte de la stèle des Saints enseignements, et un inventaire des autres inscriptions utilisent également des charactères empruntés à Wang Xizhi."

    "De Laurentis tries to situate the place of the inscription of the Holy Teachings in the history of Chinese calligraphy. The interest it has aroused among calligraphers and collectors of stampings is obvious since it represents the largest of the writings of Wang Xizhi (or rather executed with the characters of Wang Xizhi). [...] To the patient, meticulous, enthusiastic and perfectly documented demonstration of Pietro De Laurentis is added a set of additional documents: the transcription and translation of the text of the stele of the Holy teachings, and an inventory of the other inscriptions also use characters borrowed to Wang Xizhi."

    Jean-Pierre Drège, École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris, T'oung Pao (vol. 108/3-4, pp. 535-542)


    "In response to the main trends and images that have been explored in the study of calligraphic material, De Laurentis discusses in this book the Buddhist art of Shuouseikyo from the perspective of its historical significance and cultural value and I discovered the attributes of this from my reading. On the other hand, the same book also gives specific examples from the calligraphic art regarding such issues as whether the material is secular or not, from a technical and aesthetic analysis of elements including the 'naturalness, thread, dry brush, knotted brush, unbroken line, and sincerity'. It was very impressive that many arguments were presented through persuasive quantification and charting, and that De Laurentis was able to demonstrate arguments effectively."

    Shi Yongfeng 石永峰, "Bi Luo chu Son Yūgun i yoku shōgyō wo yomu—Yūroppa ni okeru Ō Gishi kenkyū no saizensen" 畢羅著尊右軍以翼聖教を読む―ヨーロッパにおける王羲之研究の最前線, Shohō gangaku kenkyū 書法漢學研究, vol. 32 (2022/12), pp. 60-64.