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
Moreover, the gentries and intellects of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420AD) had influenced and cultivated each other amongst themselves [in the art of calligraphy].
In regard to the clans of Wang (王) and Xie (謝) as well as the likes of Xi (郗) and Yu (庾) (48), although they had not fully exhibit the wonders of calligraphy, they all nonetheless were able to pick up and attain the distinct artistic flavors cherished in the art.
As time progresses further away from the Eastern Jin, however, the more decline we see in the art of calligraphy.
Furthermore, calligraphers later began the practice of listening to dubious claims regarding the art and praised (稱, 49) them [without questioning]; and when they learned some trivial techniques (末, 50), they applied them passionately to their calligraphy [without scrutiny].
Eventually, the succession of the artistry from the past to present is then blocked and insulated, and no one is able to seriously ask any question in detail.
Even if one were to somehow come into realization of something profound and important, one would generally hide and conceal (緘, 51) it deeply within oneself and not share it with anyone.
All these factors consequently cause learners to be at a loss and without truly knowing the essence of the art.
They can only see the beauties of the accomplished but fail to understand the reasons that bring about them;
or some have spent numerous years studying the layouts and structures [within and among characters of calligraphic works], but their penmanship is still quite far from following the established rules in writing calligraphy.
As they model (圖, 52) standard script, they cannot come to an understanding of it; when they practice cursive script, they are puzzled by it.
Even if one were to have a sketchy comprehension of the cursive script and a scant conveyance of the standard script (隸, 53), one would still nonetheless like to be indulged in their own stubbornly held prejudice, making one isolated by oneself (自闕, 54) from the established tenets of calligraphy (通規, 55).
Who knew that the art is actually a culmination of intelligence and dexterity like different water streams originating from one river source,
while the different techniques in turning and moving the brush are like wood branches growing out of the same tree?
Moreover, for general usage that changes with the times(趨變? 56), writing in semi-cursive script is more appropriate(為要, 57);
for titling books (or documents) and inscribing steles that have format restraints (題勒方畐, 58), penning in standard script is most preferable.
If one were to write cursive script without mastering the techniques in penning the standard script, then the outcome would have the shortcoming of being too dull and monotonous; (59)
on the other hand, if one were to pen standard script with no proficiency in writing the cursive script, then the end result could not be considered as Han Zha (翰札, which refers to writing letters with lively penmanship).(60)
Standard script relies on dots and strokes to define its physical form, while moving the brush (使, 61) and turning it in concert (轉, 62) give rise to its vitality, manner and aesthetic flavor (情性, 63);
by contrast, cursive script relies on dots and strokes to bring about its vitality, manner and aesthetic flavor, while moving the brush and turning it in concert determine its physical form.
Writing cursive script without properly moving the brush and turning it in concert will result in not forming characters at all;
while writing standard script with imperfect dots and strokes can still serve to record texts.
Although the dynamics (迴互, 64) of the two scripts are different, they are still more or less related to each other in their artistries.
Consequently, one should also have a good knowledge and command of other areas, such as the two seal scripts (二篆, 65), and exert effort on studying the ba-fen (八分 clerical script, 66),
as well as pay attention to zhangcao (“篇章” refers to “章草”, an earlier form of cursive script which is based on the clerical script, 67) and immerse oneself in the practice of using fei-ba (飛白, a calligraphic technique whereby the brush is only semi-wet with ink to create black brushstrokes that have white spaces randomly dispersed within them, 68).
If one does not observe these very fine details, then the resulting outcome will be extremely far from ideal – as far and disparate as the customs of the North and South which are completely isolated from each other (胡越).(69)