Mei Zhi Tie -- Sister arrived ...

[Wang Xizhi] [Wang Hsi-chih]

王羲之《妹至帖》 摹本 纵25.3厘米 横5.3厘米
(日本东京中村 富次郎私人藏1973年首次公开发表)
Nov 2007
A Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) copy of a scroll featuring 17 characters drawn by China's "Sage of Calligraphy" will have a reserve price of HK$24 million ($3.1 million) when it goes under the hammer in Hong Kong on November 26, a spokesperson for Christie's in Beijing said on Wednesday.

Owned by a Japanese collector, the 25.3-cm-long by 5.3-cm-wide hanging scroll, known as Mei Zhi Tie, is the only piece by Wang Xizhi (321-379 AD) to ever appear on the open market, Ma Chengming, from the London-based auction house, said.

The 21 existing pieces by arguably the greatest calligrapher in Chinese history are all copies made during the Tang Dynasty. Not a single original piece has survived the test of time.

The copies were created during the reign of Emperor Taizong (reigned 627-650 AD), who sought Wang's calligraphy across the nation and asked master calligraphers in his court to make duplicates.

Of the 21 known pieces still in existence, seven are in the collection of the Taipei Palace Museum, seven are in museum collections on the mainland, five are in Japanese collections including that of the royal family, one is at Princeton University in the United States, and one has disappeared, Ma said.

Tomita Jun, curator of Chinese calligraphy at the Tokyo National Museum, said much of Wang's work was in Japan because "the country sent more than 10 missions to Tang China, and in turn brought back to Japan many cultural artifacts, including several copies of Wang Xizhi's works".

The Chinese monk Jianzhen (688-733 AD) also sailed to Japan with copies of Wang's calligraphy, he said.

The Mei Zhi Tie was acquired by its current owner's family in the early part of last century in Japan.

However, it was not shown to the public until 1973, at an exhibition in the Gotoh Museum in Japan, the curator said.

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