Abstract

The essay explores the history of one of the most celebrated pieces of Chinese calligraphy, an early Tang tracing copy of Ritual to Pray for Good Harvest (Xingrangtie) by Wang Xizhi (303–ca. 361). The Tang paper slip with its fifteen characters is merely 8.9 cm wide but embedded into a scroll of 372 cm, with seals and colophons from three Chinese emperors and an illustrious line of connoisseurs. The essay explores the numerous paradoxes in the reception of both the scroll and the Wang Xizhi persona, with the scroll exemplifying the constructed nature of Wang's persona in its dialectic relationship to Chinese imperial culture.

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