Huang Tingjian (simplified Chinese: 黄庭坚; traditional Chinese:
黃庭堅; Wade–Giles: Huang T'ing-chien; 1045–1105) was a Chinese
artist, scholar, government official, and poet of the Song dynasty. He
is predominantly known as a calligrapher, and is also admired for his
painting and poetry. He was one of the Four Masters of the Song
Dynasty（Chinese: 宋四家）, and was a younger friend of Su Shi
（simplified Chinese: 苏轼; traditional Chinese: 蘇軾）and
influenced by his and his friends' practice of literati
painting（simplified Chinese: 文人画; traditional Chinese:
文人畫）, calligraphy, and poetry.
1.1 Early years in Jiangnan（江南）
1.2 With Uncle Li in Anhui
1.3 Jinshi and early career
1.5 Teaching career
1.6 Fame and conviction for conspiracy against the emperor
1.7 Yuanyou era
1.8 Death of his mother and exile
1.9 Pardon and exile, again
7 See also
10 External links
Early years in Jiangnan（江南）
Takeuchi Seihō - Calm Spring in Jiangnan
Jiangnan Summer View. Dong Yuan, 10th century.
Jiangxi in China, showing approximate area of Huang Tingjian's home
Huang Tingjian was born into the prominent Huang clan, which had
established residence in Jiangnan, south of the Yangzi
River（長江）, just across the river gorge from the main turmoils
and troubles of the Five Dynasties（五代） period. Tingjian's
great-great-grandfather had then and there established a great
library, together with an educational system. Achievement of the
jinshi （進士）degree was a common attainment for men of the Huang
clan. Huang Tingjian's mother, Lady Li（李氏）, was an
accomplished painter of bamboo and player of the guqin（古琴）.
His father, Huang Shu (黄庶，1018-1058) received his jinshi in
1042, and introduced his son
Huang Tingjian to the works of Du
Fu（杜甫） and Han Yu（韓愈）, before dying when Tingjian was
13 years old, at which point Huang  Tingjian left his hometown of
Fenning (分寧，in modern
With Uncle Li in Anhui
After his father's death,
Huang Tingjian was sent to Anhui
（安徽）to be further brought up by his uncle, Li Chang
(李常，1027-1090), who was also possessed of a large library.
Jinshi and early career
Huang Tingjian failed his jinshi（進士） in the Imperial
examination, at his first attempt, in 1064, but was passed in 1067,
when he was 22 years old. His first employment was in Song
Shenzong（宋真宗）'s first year as emperor.
Tianjin's location, in modern China. This is also not too far from
where Huang Tingjian's teaching post at the Northern Capital was
In 1068-1069 a series of major earthquakes occurred southwest of
modern Tianjin（天津）. The devastating human consequences were
noted by Huang Tingjian. This was the occasion of his writing the poem
"Lament for the Refugees"（流民嘆/流民歎）, using the imagery
of a giant tortoise moving mountains which it carried upon its back
Huang Tingjian passed his teaching credential exam in 1072, and spent
the next 7 years teaching at the Damingfu Imperial Academy in
Hebei. Its location was in what is currently Daming County.
Damingfu was then Northern Capital of the Song Chinese Empire, and not
far from the militarily turbulent northern border with the rival
Fame and conviction for conspiracy against the emperor
Further information: Crow Terrace Poetry Trial
In 1072, Li Chang, his maternal uncle, and Sun Jue his father-in-law
had shown examples of Huang Tingjiang's works to the famous poet and
New Policy opponent
Su Shi (Dongpo). In 1078, Huang presented Su with
a letter and two elaborate gushi-style poems, to which Su returned
with two poems of his own, matching Huang's rhyme-scheme. Huang's fame
was secured when
Su Shi (Dongpo) heaped his praises upon him, and the
two became close friends for life.
So far, it seems that Huang had managed to avoid entanglement in
politics, and in fact his early career as an imperial teaching
official seems to have been in part secured by the favor of Wang
Anshi, upon reading a poem of Huang's, hinting at retiring from the
boredom which he was experiencing at that point of his career. At
the time, there were two major parties, a "reform" party (also known
as the New Policies Group), led by
Wang Anshi and a "conservative"
party, which included such prominent officials as Sima Guang, Ouyang
Xiu, and Su Shi. Under the imperial system the winning side was chosen
by the emperor (or the emperor's regent in the case of his minority).
Imperial disfavor could range from death to a stalled career.
As Emperor Shenzong increasingly favored Wang Anshi's New Policies, as
they were known, their opponents suffered politically: this included
exile for Su Shi, beginning in 1080, to Hangzhou (which was the time
period when Su adopted the nickname of Dongpo). As Su's conviction was
for writing in a defamatory way about the emperor and his government,
anyone who had circulated his writings without reporting them (as Shen
Kuo did), was likely to be found guilty of conspiracy. Both Huang
Tingjian and his Uncle Li were convicted as co-conspirators and
accordingly given considerable fines (20 catties of copper). Huang
was also exiled, first to Jizhou Subprefecture (now Jizhou District,
Jiangxi), then to Depingzhen, in Shandong. Like, Su Shi, Huang
Tingjian was known for good governance: light with taxes and
empathetic with the common folk over whom they were placed in charge.
Among other deeds,
Huang Tingjian failed to enforce the New Policy of
government monopoly of salt production.
The Yuanyou (元祐, Yuányòu) era (1086–1093) was the first regnal
period of the new emperor, Song Zhezong, and an important period in
the life of Huang Tingjian. During the Yuanyou years, Zhezong was in
his minority, and
Empress Dowager Gao acted as regent. Empress Dowager
Gao was not a New Policy enthusiast, Wang Anshi's party was out of
Wang Anshi himself was forced into retirement. Huang
Tingjian and the other exiles were recalled from their places of
banishment. Happy days were here again: now, Su, Huang, and the others
could enjoy each other's company in person, and Huang was promoted, to
sub-editor of the Academy of Scholarly Worthies and examining editor
for the official records of former Emperor Shenzong's reign.
Editing the official records of the previous emperor, in light of the
factional politics which had ignited at that time and were still
burning, would turn out to be a perilous undertaking for Huang
Death of his mother and exile
Sichuan in China (on modern map)
Huang Tingjian's mother died in 1091: obligatory retirement for a
period of morning in the case of the death of either parent was then
the custom, and Huang returned to the family cemetery in Fenning,
Jiangnan, with the remains of his mother, his two wives that had died,
and those of an aunt. While he was engaged in the three-year ritual
Empress Dowager Gao died, and Zhezong began to reign
in fact as well as name. Zhezong favored the reformist party, and
their remnant members returned with a vengeance: their opponents alive
or dead were persecuted:
Su Shi was demoted and exiled,
Sima Guang and
Lü Gongzhu's tombs were defaced, and
Huang Tingjian was denounced by
Cai Bian (Wang Anshi's son-in-law). Huang was convicted of
sarcastically editing the official records of former Emperor Shenzong.
Huang Tingjian spent the ensuing decade in exile, in various locations
Pardon and exile, again
Ezhou Prefecture within modern Hubei, China.
Guangxi, in modern China
In the year 1100, Emperor Zhezong died young and unexpectedly, at 23
years old, and with his death came a new political alignment: the new
emperor was Huizong, then in his late teenage years. Much of the power
was in the hands of his older brother's wife, the former Empress
Xiang. A general amnesty was declared between the two parties, the
reformists and, the conservatives. By this time the anti-reformist
conservatives were known as the "Yanyou Party". Cai Bian and his
adherents were dismissed from office.
Huang Tingjian found out he had
been pardoned, later in the year of 1100. He was also granted a
sinecure position in
Ezhou city, in southeastern
for collecting tax revenues on salt), which meant that he received a
salary or other remuneration; but, as he was not required to live or
work there, this was not exile. However,
Huang Tingjian remained in
Sichuan long enough to attend his son's marriage ceremony, to the
daughter of a local official. In 1102,
Huang Tingjian visited Fenning,
after extensive travels and several illnesses. As the year 1102
progressed, the political pendulum again reversed itself: the Yuanyou
officials were out of favor once more. A list of somewhat over 100
officials whom the emperor considered to be heterodox was erected on a
stele at the capital:
Huang Tingjian was one of those named. Huang had
been the recipient of a major promotion, but was now dismissed
summarily, just 9 days after his appointment. As the year 1102 waned,
Huang Tingjian returned to Ezhou, and visited various other places
including Wuchang. It was during this period that he wrote "Wind in
the Pines Hall".
Huang Tingjian awaited further developments at
Ezhou, hearing no news about how the emperor intended to deal with his
case, until the end of 1103. It was exile, again. This time to the far
south, Yizhou (now in Guangxi). At the time, as now Yizhou, was a
fairly small settlement composed of both ethnic
Han people and Zhuang
people. However, then it was only tenuously part of the Chinese
Empire. Guangxi, then administered as Guangnanxi ("West Southern
Expanse"), had only been annexed by the
Song Dynasty in 971. And, as
recently as 1052, the Zhuang leader
Nong Zhigao had led a revolt,
briefly making the area part of an independent kingdom. Sending the
then 58-year-old, sick and frail
Huang Tingjian to an official exile
in this remote and precarious position was not far from a death
Further information: Xiaoxiang poetry
Map of the
XiaoXiang area, with
Guangxi (the location of Yizhou) at
Travel to his remote posting meant travel through the XiaoXiang: the
classic poetic place of exile. Not that he was not already there, in
Ezhou; but, now,
Huang Tingjian was faced with traveling through the
depths of it, only to emerge into an even more remote and difficult
territory. He faced a fate similar to
Su Shi Dongpo, who never quite
made it back from his final exile in the then remote and undeveloped
island of Hainan. The far southern lands were known as the "gates of
hell", but when the emperor ordered one of his subjects there, there
was little choice. Open resistance could be and often was met with the
mass annihilation of ones entire family, and even whole clan. The main
hope was a quick recall from exile. However, in Huang Tingjian's case,
this never happened.
In early 1104,
Huang Tingjian packed up his family and headed south,
towards his place of banishment, Yizhou. That springtime, during the
course of his journey,
Huang Tingjian met the Chan monk Zhongren (also
known as Huaguang, after the name of his monastery). Zhongren shared a
scroll of poems by Su Shi, Su Shi's brother Su Che, the monk Shenliao,
Qin Guan (another one of the Yuanyou crew): and, both
Su Shi and
Qin Guan had died as a result of their exiles in the south, the
Huang Tingjian was now upon.
The two became friends: Zhongren painted branches of flowering plum
blossoms and landscapes for Huang, Huang wrote poems in his inimatable
calligraphy for Zhongren, even appending a poem with praise of
Zhongren to the end of his precious scroll of poems. Together the two
helped to change the art world forever: establishing monochrome
painting of plums among the scholar-official class.
Yizhou: view from the Long River, 2007.
Parting ways with his friend Zhongren,
Huang Tingjian headed onward
towards his destined place of banishment, Yizhou. Emperor Huizong had
ordered him there, and so, leaving his family in the mountains of
Yongzhou (Hunan), in order to "spare them from the intense heat",
Huang Tingjian traveled on to his destination without them.
Once there, he continued his calligraphy, of which an ink rubbing
survives, a rather pointed quote about the life of Fan Pang (137-169),
who was arrested and executed due to getting caught up in factional
politics, during the second of the Disasters of Partisan Prohibitions
which occurred during the Han dynastic era.
In the early Winter of 1105,
Huang Tingjian died, alone from his
family, in exile, in Yizhou.
His funeral was arranged by a stranger, who had traveled to Yizhou,
hoping to make his acquaintance.
Huang Tingjian's health was poor throughout his life. His health
problems included "beriberi, severe coughs and colds, malarial fever,
headaches, dizziness, and in his later years, heart trouble and chest
and arm pains."
Huang Tingjian also had a deep interest in
medicinal substances, and at one point seriously mulled over the idea
of giving up his aspirations for an official career, in favor of
opening up a shop and dealing in herbs and herbal medications.
Huang Tingjian had 3 wives during his life, and one son, to the third.
His first wife was the daughter of the scholar, Sun Jue (1028-1090).
She died in 1070. His second wife, from the Xie clan, had a daughter
to him, before her death, in Damingfu, in 1079. His third wife gave
birth to his only son, whom he gave the unusual name of "Forty",
because he was 40 years old when the boy was born.
Huang Tingjian had a strong lifelong interest in Buddhism and Daoism.
In his hometown of Fenning were 10 monasteries of the Chan practice
("Chan" is Chinese for Zen); indeed, Jiangnan had hundreds of them.
The year after his second wife died, Huang retreated to the Shan'gu
(Mountain Valley) Daoist monastery in Anhui, and took the religious
name Shan'gu Daoren.
Scroll for Zhang Datong, A.D. 1100, a canonical work of Chinese
calligraphy in the Princeton University Art Museum
Huang Tingjian is noted for his prodigious talent in terms of his vast
Classical Chinese poetry
Classical Chinese poetry and literature. He is famous
both for the calligraphy and the poetry of his work "Wind in the Pines
Hall", which survives in the Palace Museum, Taipei.
Biographies of Lian Po and Lin Xiangru.
Calligraphy by Huang Tingjian.
Huang is also regarded as a particularly fine and creative
calligrapher of the Song Dynasty. His xingshu (semi-cursive style of
script) displays a sharpness and aggression that is instantly
recognizable to students of Chinese calligraphy. His calligraphic
piece Biographies of Lian Po and Lin Xiangru epitomises a technique
today known as "flying-white" "when writing calligraphy, the areas
within a brushstroke where the brush fails to leave a full measure of
ink and streaks of white paper or silk appear".
Huang Tingjian is considered to be the founder of the
Poem on the Hall of Pines and Wind
A version of the poem "Cold Food Observance", by Su Shi, which
includes some of Huang Tingjian's calligraphy. Su Shi's calligraphy is
on the right side. Huang Tingjian's calligraphy is to its left
Picture of Huang Tingjian, from much later times.
Illustration from the Long Corridor. Left to right:Su Shi, Fo Yin
(佛印), and Huang Tingjian, drinking wine.
Wei Qing Dao Ren Observance
Besotted by Flower Vapors
24 paragons of filial piety - Huang Tingjian, who "so loved his
mother, that he emptied her chamber pot himself".
^ Murck, 158-159
^ Murck, 158 and 161
^ Murck, 158
^ Murck, 160 and note 3, page 331
^ Murck, 158-159
^ Murck, 159 and note 8, page 331
^ Murck, 158-159
^ Murck, 160-161
^ Murck, 158-160
^ Murck, 160
^ Murck, 161-162
^ Murck, 162-163
^ Murck, 179
^ Murck, 179
^ Murck, 187. Also see 後漢書/卷67
^ Murck, 187-188
^ Murck, note 5, page 331, following Shen Fu
^ Murck, 159
^ Murck, 159
^ Murck, 159
^ Patton, Andy J. (2013). ""A Painter's Brush That Also Makes Poems":
Contemporary Painting After Northern Song Calligraphy". Electronic
Thesis and Dissertation Repository, Paper 1302.
^ Murck, 157
^ Murck, 177
^ Wang Yao-t'ing, Looking at Chinese Painting, Nigensha Publishing Co.
Ltd., Tokyo, Japan (first English edition 1996), p, 78.
^ Murck, 157
Encyclopædia Britannica, copyrighted 1994-2005.
Murck, Alfreda (2000). Poetry and Painting in Song China: The Subtle
Art of Dissent. Cambridge (Massachusetts) and London: Harvard
University Asia Center for the Harvard-Yenching Institute.
Willets, William, Chinese Calligraphy: Its History and Aesthetic
Motivation, Oxford University Press, 1981.
Wang Yao-t'ing, Looking at Chinese Painting, Nigensha Publishing Co.
Ltd., Tokyo, Japan (first English edition 1996), p, 78.
Calligraphy Gallery at China Online Museum
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Huang Tingjian.
Classical Chinese poetry
Modern Chinese poetry
Poetry by dynasty
Six Dynasties poetry
Classic of Poetry
New Songs from the Jade Terrace
Nineteen Old Poems
Three Hundred Tang Poems
Individual poems list
Chinese poems (category list)
List of poems (article)
Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry
The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature
The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars
Emperor Wen of Han
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