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Copy of Kong Zhou Stele, in clerical script

by He Shaoji (1799–1873)
China, Qing dynasty, ca. 1860–61
Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Recognized for his clerical and running scripts, He Shaoji is one of the leading scholars and calligraphers of the nineteenth century who derived inspiration from studying ancient writing. Here he briefly copied a short section of a stone stele that was erected in 164 ce in memory of the scholar-official Kong Zhou (103–163), who descended from the philosopher Confucius through nineteen generations. This portion appears on the back of the original stele, where the names and birthplaces of Kong Zhou’s followers are recorded. The squat, rectangular structure of the individual characters, with their emphatic horizontal strokes, elongated diagonal strokes, and occasional heavy accents, distinguishes clerical script of the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), while the randomly spaced blobs of ink intentionally resemble the eroded stone of the stele. The rightward slant in the structure of each character is a hallmark of He’s personal style of clerical script.