At the back of the hill

Warning: May contain traces of soy, wheat, lecithin and tree nuts. That you are here
strongly suggests that you are either omnivorous, or a glutton.
And that you might like cheese-doodles.
Please form a caseophilic line to the right. Thank you.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


A letter from a an eleventh century Chinese scholar recently fetched a top price at an auction. And deservedly so. Not only was Zeng Gong (曾鞏 'Jang Gung') a great essayist -- one of the eight masters of the Tang and Song dynasties -- but he was also a calligrapher whose pen produced that which is pleasing to the eye, as the example below shows.

Guk Si Tip: a note about events, a casual scribble mentioning the hurly-burly of life at the writer's current posting (in some provincial burg).
A friendly message from one scholar to another.

[Copied from the BBC, who got it from China Guardian/Weibo.]

The characters are balanced and elegant. What particularly catches my eye is the regularity of the diagonal down-left strokes, which form a rhythm, as well as the contrast with the down-right strokes, often shorter, and weighted near their termination, giving a springy vibrancy.
The overall stroke-patterning is lively.
The ink-weight is even.

No, I do not expect you to understand that; there is no real terminology to describe Chinese calligraphy in English.

Paraphrase: Life is okay, rather uneventful, but I do feel isolated and out of it. My three year assignment here is coming to an end soon, and I can hardly wait, even though my reviews have been rather unfavourable and there might be hell to pay. I'll be passing by your neck of the woods in Autumn, and expect to see you then. Hope that everything is going well for you and that you are healthy (and if you could put in a good word for me should that prove necessary, I would be very much obliged, by the way).

[Please note: what I have translated as 'toodles' (再拜 'joi baai') is actually much more formal: to bow or reverence, as one would to a superior.]

One imagines the brush held in the skilled hand skipping evenly and consciously down each line, holding pace with thought.

I wish I could write like that.

Alas, my best calligraphy is on cocktail napkins.
Frequently whisky is a requirement.
In modest quantity.

NOTE: Readers may contact me directly:
All correspondence will be kept in confidence.


  • At 7:17 PM, Anonymous Richard Cancan said…

    I am very disappointed with you, Mr. of the Hill, that you did not want to write "her [=Liza's] character's behaviour in Arrested Development run through that treadmill [of Talmudic analysis]". Even though you agreed that that would be interesting.

    Please, sir. Please.

    Make sure to reference Shakespeare, Kipling, and Shiur Komah. And dinuguan. And remember to remember Liza's illustrious Mama.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Newer›  ‹Older