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Calligraphy on the Red Cliffs

Calligraphy on the Red Cliffs

Photograph of Dǒng Qíchāng’s (董其昌) calligraphic transcription of work the Su Shi (蘇軾) masterpiece, “Second Prose Poem on the Red Cliff”, which is currently on display at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. This piece immediately grabbed my attention, not just because of its size, but due to its content- Red Cliffs (赤壁), or more specifically, the 3rd Century Battle of Red Cliffs, (赤壁之戰), from China’s Three Kingdoms period, is one of the most pivotal battles of that time. (I’ll stop here, because I could seriously go on way too much- the Three Kingdoms is one of my interests…)

Dong Qichang was a Ming Dynasty painter, scholar, calligrapher, and art theorist- his works favored formal likeness, and avoided anything he deemed to be slick or sentimental. As time went on, he tended to create landscapes with intentionally distorted spatial features. He is considered the one of the most, if not the most, versatile Chinese artist of the last five centuries.


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