Chapter I Basics of Collecting calligraphical work
Section I   An Overview of Collection
Collection is a very interesting and at the same time very difficult thing to do. Collection has been all oveer the entire mankind since it is an instrumental activity to preserve and pass on traditional cultures of mankind. Collection of paintings and calligraphy is a behavior benignant to both mind and health, it is also a forwarding looking investment, which does not have risks as in securities, gold and real estate but needs abundant economic strength as well. Collection requires a broadly knowledgeable mind, rich experience and an acute vision. It is a long term investment that contradicts to an intention of short term return. A good collector treats it as a discipline of study, and by accumulating experience year after year, he could enjoy his collection with delight and at the same time a bumper profit.
Section II   Collection in Various Dynasties
Collection has been done by both the imperial court and individuals over the past. Imperial court collection started from Han Dynasty when Liu Che (刘彻in Chinese that reads Líu Chè 156-87 BC), Emperor Wu of Han (汉武帝 in Chinese that reads Hàn Wǔ Dì) set up the Treasure Liberary to collect books including calligraphy and when Liu Zhuang (刘莊 in Chinese that reads Líu Zhuāng 28-75), Emperor Ming



A portrait of Liu Che

                             of Han (汉明帝 in Chinese that reads Hàn Mímg Dì) who was fond of painting and set up his own studio and later Hongdu College which collected treasures of art. During Wei and Jin periods, the collection of paintings and calligraphy was greatly enriched, yet part of the collections failed to survive the intrusion of Xianbei Tribe. The rulers of Southern Dynaty were all fond of art, a stratum of literati appeared in this period, over 100 from this stratum


concentrated in painting and calligraphy with superb skills and left behind them quite a number of master-pieces. At the end of Eastern Jin, Huan Xuan (桓玄 in Chinese that reads Huān Xuān 369-404) usurped power and took over all art relics as his own. After Liu Yu (刘裕in Chinese that reads Líu Yù) overthrown Huan Xuan and found the State of Song (420-479), he asked to establish an enventory of all the art relics being kept at the palace. When the Southern Dynasty came to the period of the State of Qi, the first ruler Xiao Daocheng (萧道成in Chinese that reads Xīao Dàochēng 479-502) was well-versed in calligraphy and painting, he had the collections of 42 artists compiled starting from Lu Tanwei (陆探微in Chinese that reads Lù Tànwēi) who was the inhouse artist of the Song court, regarded as the first Saint of Art and was the first to paint with calligraphy skills, to Fan Weixian (范惟贤in Chinese that reads Fàn Wēixīan) who was also a Song State painter in 27 parts that included 348 pieces. Aside from collections, discrimination, assessment and studies of artist relics were also active, there were quite a number of books on calligraphy, for instance, Wei Huan (卫桓 in Chinese that reads Wèi Huān) of Jin wrote 《On the Motion of Four Calligraphy Styles—四体书势》.
Every emperor of Tang Dynasty, including the lady emperor Wu Zetian (武则天in Chinese that reads Wǔ Zétīan) attached importance to collections. There were three sessions of rubbings of works by Wang Xizhi and a few others in the Tang, which are unprecedented and spectacular. Private collectors became noted, in particular Zhang Yanyuan (张彦远in Chinese that reads Zhāng Yànyuǎn) who also wrote a famous book entitled 《Notes on Famous Painting of Various Dynasties—历代名画记》.
In Northern Song, collections by previous regimes were gathered and sent to its capital. Emperor Taizong issued an edict to local governments for collections of ancient painting and calligraphy. By the time of Emperor Huizong, the collection was 100 times that in the Tang. According to the imperial registry, there were 1,248 scrolls of calligraphy, 6,396 scrolls of painting by famous artists. In Southern Song, efforts were made to collected works scattered among the common folks; the collected works were kept in lacqure boxes, systematic sorting, appraisal and mounting were conducted.
Aside from taking over from Southern Song government, Yuan Dynasty also purchased famous artist relics from localities. All collections were shipped to Beijing and looked after by the office of secretariat. Officials were appointed to discriminate ancient works from contemporary ones.
Ming Dynasty also took over from Yuan a reservior of collection and gathered works from the society, the government also asked famous artists to offer their masterpieces. There were more thoretic and commentary books on art at this period.
By the time of Emperor Qianlong, the collections by Qing Dynasty outnumbered any previous dynasties in quantity, which was over 10,000 pieces. There were more private collectors in the Qing than any other periods. Yet, when the British and French troops and troops of the Eight Powers invaded China, a certain amount of these collection found their way to other countries. In 1911 at the collapse of Qing, the last emperor Buyi took over 1,200 pieces out of the Forbidden City, which all got lost. With the founding of the People’s Republic, museums were built in Beijing and localities to provide home for these collections.
Section III   Basic Collection Skills
The value of ancient Chinese calligraphy increases as time goes by. Along with appreciation, collection is also a means of investment. The basic skills are the following:
1.   Collection should be done within one’s own ability. Beginners can keep their eye on works by calligraphers on the rise, which are not too expensive, but have great potentials.
2.   Not to buy any works that are in dispute.
3.   Have a focus, either on a particular school, artist and period or on works of a special theme.
4.   Gather as much information on your focus as possible.
5.   Sell your collection at an opportune time.
Section IV   Collecting Channels
1.   Auctions: be aware that there are fakes in auction, and estimate of value vary from one auction to the other;
2.   Galleries: there are rarely works of collection value in galleries;
3.   Exhibitions: this is the best way for collection, which is reliable, safe, can be kept in secrecy and has more room for price discussions;
4.   Exchange with other can enrich your collection, you have what others want and they have what you desire for;
5.   Obtain through media;
6.   Obtain at commemorating ceremonies when calligraphers write on site.
Section V   Values of Collection
Values of collection depend on the following:
1.   How famous the artist is and the quality of his work. Generally speaking, the more a calligrapher is famous, the higher the quality of his work and the more the value of collection. The collector should be aware that there are pieces at the early stage of the artist, and even after the artist became famous, there are sometimes failures.
2.   Artistic value: A good piece of calligraphy usually reflects the beauty of nature, society and life and projects a sense of beauty. It can often tell how many years the calligrapher has imersed himself in calligraphy and how much strength it contains. Calligraphers transform a language symbol into an art form of various composition of lines, it can be solid and robust, can be elegant and graceful and can also be unadorned and vigorous. An outstanding piece would be a good blend of form and spirit, usually has its own characters and original. A master piece that opened a new school of calligraphy or a new era and has been adored by later generations and being followed is of the highest artistic value.
3.   Appreciation value: As a form of art, calligraphy is for people to appreciate. Generally speaking, if a piece of calligraphy has artistic value, it also has an appreciation value. However, a piece of calligraphy without any artistic value may have appreciation value, because of different levels of appreciation and different interpretations of the work. The judging standard varies from an expert to a layman. For a layman, regular script and free hand are more appeal to them, but before a well-done cursive script, he could hardly offer any opinions. For a layman, his judging standard is based on whether the piece of work looks beautiful, while for a person who knows calligraphy, the standard is the artistic power the calligrapher manipulates, his skills, his way of using the ink and if his work contains a unique personal character. There are after all few people who really know calligraphy; at the same time, those who don’t know calligraphy can also appreciate it. So, artistic value is not easily equal to appreciation value. As far as appreciation value is concerned, different person has a different standard, which varies from occupation, age and sex gender.
4.   Historic and social value: If a piece of calligraphy, not done by a famous master, has no or little artistic or appreciation value, may have a historic value, because it was done such a long time ago and can be useful for research and studies. Value of collection should not be confined to calligraphers only, calligraphy done by statesman, scholars, opera performers, film ans sports stars may have some social value and, further, collection value because of their social status and influence even though their work may of no artistic value.
5.   Economic value: Reputation, artistic value, appreciation value, historic value and social value are the decisive factors of economic value. The rarer the work the higher its economic value. So, economic value is also an important factor for value of collection.
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