Ranteijo (蘭亭序)

The Ranteijo is the work of calligraphy written by Wang Xi-Zhi and the most famous in the calligraphy world.


On March 3, 353 (in the lunar calendar), the Kyokusui no Utage (a poetry-making party at the stream in a garden) was held at the Rantei and a draft of a preface for a collection of poems created at that time was the Ranteijo. It is said that Wang Xi-Zhi was drunk when he wrote it and, although he tried to rewrite it again and again later than that, he couldn't improve it any better. So-called 'Sotsui' no sho (the handwriting which was written without any intentional purpose). Composed of 28 lines, 324 words.

Cho Suiryo in Tang authenticated the Wang Xi-Zhi's calligraphy and wrote a note, 'In 1383, 28 lines, the Ranteijo' in the first part of the gyosho (a style of handwriting) in the "Shinnyugun Ougishi Shomoku."

The "Ranteiki" written by 何延之 in Tang says that Taiso (Tang tai zong), who was known as a noshoka (master of calligraphy) and loved Wang Xi-Zhi's calligraphy so much, collected all of his works except for the Ranteijo, and ordered his vassal to steal it from Bensai, who was a disciple of Wang Xi-Zhi's descendant priest CHI Ei, as a last resort and buried it in his own imperial mausoleum Shoryo (Tang) and other Wang Xi-Zhi's works.

Because of that, any of Wang Xi-Zhi's Shinseki (original handwriting) including the Ranteijo does not exist today. However, there are some examples of handwriting and engraving that skilled calligraphers in the Tang Dynasty period are said to have written following the model by Taiso's order.

Among these handwritings, the following three copied books collected by Chien Lung of Qing are famous (possessed by the Palace Museum in Beijing).

Dong Qichan presumed that the Hacchu-daiichi-bon had been written following the model by Shinan YU. Despite the fact that it is a seemingly unclear copy with no outpouring of vitality perceived from the writing and with many parts added with ink later, Yasushi NISHIKAWA evaluated it as the closest sokotenbokuhon (copy of handwriting) to Wang Xi-Zhi's Shinseki. Since it was presented by Chokinkaido during the period of Yuan Dynasty, it is also called the Chokinkaido-bon.

The Hacchu-daiini-bon, which used to be considered by some to be written by Cho Suiryo following the model, is currently presumed to have been written by an unknown person during the period of Baisong Dynasty following the model. The distinctive feature of the book is its thin handwriting.

The Hacchu-daiisan-bon is said to have been written by Fu Shoso following the model. This book is characteristically sharp and clear in handwriting, and it is often introduced in high school textbooks, etc., but conversely this style is sometimes pointed out to be unnatural. Since the half part of the mark 'Shinryu' (Tang), which was used for a tally impression, remains on one of its edges, it is also called the Shinryuhanin-bon (Copybook of calligraphy with the half seal of the God and Dragon). Shinryu' is the name of an era during the period of Tang Dynasty.
(It was exhibited at the Edo-Tokyo Museum in 2008 for the first time in Japan.)

Anyway, there is no ground to guarantee that each of the copybooks was actually written by skilled calligraphers following the model in the early Tang Dynasty period.

The Teibu-bon, on which a stone monument was found in Teibu County between the period of Five Dynasties and the period of Baisong Dynasty, has been valued the most since old times among all the rubbed copies produced using the Ranteijo engraved on slates or wooden boards. The Kaiko-bon is comparable to the Teibu-bon. Although the Teibu-bon is generally said to have been written by Ouyang Xun following the model, there is also no ground to guarantee the fact. So many reprints of the Teibu-bon have been produced. Other than that, the Chokinkaido-bon and the Shinryuhanin-bon are famous and often used as a model. The Chokinkaido-bon, which used Hacchu-daiichi-bon as the original, is peaceful in handwriting, and it was valued more highly than the Shinryuhanin-bon. The Shujo Shuhekido Jo (the book of Chinese calligraphy in the 17th century) and the Yoseisaijo (the selected handwritings of Chinese calligraphy published at the end of the 17th century) are known. The Shinryuhanin-bon has the Hacchu-daiisan-bon as its original and is said to have more natural touch than the handwriting.

Ranteijo (蘭亭序) is sometimes written as '蘭亭叙' with '叙' replacing '序.'
However, the character '叙' does not have to be used consciously; it was spread since Su Shi used it to avoid using '序' which was also his grandfather's name.

Although an opinion that the Ranteijo was counterfeit was expressed by Guo Moruo (1892-1978) right before the Cultural Revolution (the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution) and caused a great sensation, it has little support today.

Ranteijo existing in Japan

The Gohei-bon Ranteijo (the rubbed copy of the monument which the handwritings of Wang Xi-Zhi were carved on) (Tokyo National Museum)
The Chomo Jusanbatsu Rinranteijo (the copy of the Ranteijo introducing Wang Xi-Zhi's handwritings) (Tokyo National Museum)

[Original Japanese]