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
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.
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),
some can give one the fantastic perception of hearing roaring thunders or watching a free-falling boulder,
some resemble the inherent nature (25) of unrestrained movements as seen in the flights of magnificent geese or in the motions of startled beasts,
some appear as if phoenixes are dancing or snakes are frightened,
some mimic the terrains of a precipitous cliff standing beside a shore or a steeply descending alp rising above the ground,
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).
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.
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.
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)
all exist within the marvels of Mother Nature and cannot be formed by mere human efforts alone.
Hence, the art is truly a culmination of exemplary intelligence and techniques, with both the mind and hand working smoothly together.
Every brush movement is not unnecessary and each brushstroke is made with a reason.
Within a line, there are wave-like irregularities in thickness that are made by the varying use of the tip of a brush (30);
within a dot, the Nu (衄) and Cuo (挫) techniques (31) are made discernable by the fine brush tip.
Moreover, it is said that writing a character is based upon the assemblage of lines and dots.
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,