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Full Access Beyond Calligraphy: Reading Wang Xizhi's Letters

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Beyond Calligraphy: Reading Wang Xizhi's Letters

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image of T'oung Pao

The extant calligraphy ascribed to Wang Xizhi consists mainly of short letters that have hitherto been discussed mostly in terms of their calligraphic value, authenticity, and as sources of historical information. This article focuses on the textual properties of the approximately seven-hundred transmitted notes of Wang Xizhi, especially on their communicative functions for the perpetuation of personal relationships among family members and friends. Although these texts are characterized by an overwhelming topicality, this does not impair their epistolary efficacy. Even letters that seemingly lack any particular message and consist of nothing but epistolary conventions have the potential to fulfill genuine communicative functions, to a great extent independently of their calligraphic appeal. Les calligraphies attribuées à Wang Xizhi qui ont été conservées consistent essentiellement en courtes lettres auxquelles ont s'est intéressé jusqu'ici pour leur valeur calligraphique, leur authenticité, et en tant que sources historiques. Cet article se concentre sur les propriétés textuelles des quelque sept cents notes de Wang Xizhi qui nous sont parvenues, en particulier sur les fonctions de communication dont l'objet est de perpétuer des liens personnels entre membres d'une famille ou entre amis. Bien que ces textes se caractérisent par la domination des formules toutes faites, cela ne diminue pas leur efficacité épistolaire. Même des lettres apparemment dénuées de tout message particulier et ne consistant qu'en conventions épistolaires sont capables de remplir de véritables fonctions de communication, largement indépendantes de leur intérêt calligraphique.

Affiliations: 1: University of Colorado


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