A Narrative on Calligraphy Treatise on Calligraphy Manual of Calligraphy 孫過庭 書譜 翻譯 英譯 Translation Pt. II - Vincent's Calligraphy

Go to content

Main menu:

Modelling and English Translation of Sun Guoting's "A Narrative on Calligraphy"
(Part II)

孫過庭 《書譜》臨習英譯 (部份)

by Kwan Sheung Vincent POON (潘君尚)  
Oct. 1, 2017
Published on www.vincentpoon.com, Toronto

A. Modelling (by KS Vincent POON)

A model of Sun Guoting's "A Narrative on Calligraphy" (Part II)
35  X  137cm (Sheet 2 and Sheet 3)
Click to Enlarge. In reserve, not available in Shop.
B. Historical Information
Please see Part I

C. Translation (by KS Vincent POON with Chinese advisor Kwok Kin POON, PhD.  Oct. 1, 2017)
Readers are strongly encouraged to read the blue numerical footnotes below to gain a better understanding of the original Chinese text and to review some major errors in the translations made by others.
Original Chinese Text
English Translation
At the age of fifteen (17), I began to pay a great deal of attention to the practicing of the art of calligraphy.
I had researched on (18) the past accomplishments made by Zhong (Zhong Yao) and Zhang (Zhang Zhi), and paid deference (19) to the past rules established by Xi and Xian (Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi) with great deliberation and focus for over twenty four years (20).
Although I have not been completely loyal to the techniques that can grant one the ability to write outstanding calligraphy (入木, 21) (this should be read as a self-effacing statement by Sun Guoting), I nonetheless kept my unintermitted determination in practicing the art of calligraphy throughout the years.
35. 觀夫懸針垂露之異,
Observing the many variety of brushstrokes displayed in calligraphy, there are some that are distinctive (22) like vertical hanging needles (23) or like the vertical paths of dews that are about to drop towards the ground (24),
36. 奔雷墜石之奇,
some can give one the fantastic perception of hearing roaring thunders or watching a free-falling boulder,
37. 鴻飛獸駭之資,
some resemble the inherent nature (25)  of unrestrained movements as seen in the flights of magnificent geese or in the motions of startled beasts,
38. 鸞舞蛇驚之態,
some appear as if phoenixes are dancing or snakes are frightened,
39. 絕岸頹峰之勢,
some mimic the terrains of a precipitous cliff standing beside a shore or a steeply descending alp rising above the ground,
40. 臨危據槁之形。
some can give one the impression that they are facing near-death or that they are in a state of death, dried and withered (26).
41. 或重若崩雲,或輕如蟬翼。
At times, the resulting outline from the brush can be as heavy as thick clouds (27), or, at other times, it can be as light as cicada’s wings.
42. 導之則泉注,頓之則山安。
When the brush is directed to move, it flows as if it is a stream of water gushing out of fountains; when it stops, it appears to be anchored like an immovable mountain resting on the ground.
43. 纖纖乎似初月之出天崖,落落乎猶眾星之列河漢:
Hence, the resulting brushstrokes can be as delicate and refined as if they were New Moons that have just risen over the horizon (28) or they can be widely scattered like the many stars dispersed throughout the Galaxy:(29)
44. 同自然之妙有,非力運之能成。
all exist within the marvels of Mother Nature and cannot be formed by mere human efforts alone.
45. 信可謂智巧兼優,心手雙暢。
Hence, the art is truly a culmination of exemplary intelligence and techniques, with both the mind and hand working smoothly together.
46. 翰不虛動,下必有由。
Every brush movement is not unnecessary and each brushstroke is made with a reason.  
47. 一畫之間,變起伏於峯杪;
Within a line, there are wave-like irregularities in thickness that are made by the varying use of the tip of a brush (30);
48. 一點之內,殊衄挫於毫芒。
within a dot, the Nu (衄) and Cuo (挫) techniques (31) are made discernable by the fine brush tip.
49. 況云積其點畫,乃成其字。
Moreover, it is said that writing a character is based upon the assemblage of lines and dots.
50. 曾不傍窺尺櫝,俯習寸陰,
Thus, if one has not carefully studied chi du (in this context, it refers to the art of calligraphy) and does not cherish every moment to focus on learning the art,
51. 引班超以為辭,援項籍而自滿,
cites Ban Chao’s (班超 32-102 AD) comment (32) as a rebuttal [against practicing the art of calligraphy] as well as possesses the type of arrogance seen in Xiang Ji (項籍232-202BC) (33),
52. 任筆為體,聚墨成形,
lets one’s brush to arbitrarily form the body of characters on its own while allowing aggregates of ink blobs to aimlessly produce the shape of characters without consideration,
53. 心昏擬效之方,手迷揮運之理,
writes with a mind that does not understand the right method  to modelling classical works while the hand is at a loss in the proper way to moving a brush,  
54. 求其妍妙,不亦謬哉!?
wouldn’t it be ridiculous to expect such an individual to seek the wonders of calligraphy!?
Copyright 2013-2017. All rights reserved. www.vincentpoon.com
Back to content | Back to main menu