Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Upright Brush: Yan Zhenqing’s Calligraphy and Song Literati Politics

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Amy McNair has written a splendid study of a major Tang dynasty (618–906) political figure, Yan Zhenqing (709–785), and the manner in which his reputation as a statesman and calligrapher grew during the subsequent Song dynasty (960–1279). McNair’s text is part biography, part historical overview, part artistic analysis—with the pieces coming together in a deeply satisfying picture of Yan Zhenqing as a Tang loyalist whose bold brushstrokes were appropriated by eleventh-century literati as perhaps the most fundamental example of “square,” or “upright” calligraphic style.