Ink on paper
Tang dynasty/7-8th century
Tokyo National Museum
This handscroll contains part of the collected writings of Wang Bo (c. 649-c. 676), a literatus who lived in China during the early Tang dynasty (618-c. 907). Wang Bo, who was from Longmen (present-day Shanxi Province), became a government official in the service of Pei Wang, but was demoted; he met an early death when he drowned at age twenty-nine. From his youth, Wang Bo excelled in poetry and prose. He is counted among the Four Geniuses of the early Tang dynasty.
This is the oldest extant copy of a portion of his thirty-volume collected works. Included on this scroll are one verse from the biography section (volume 29), five of the six verses in the prayer section (also volume 29), and four memorial prayer verses (volume 30). The calligraphic lines are slim, but the characters are wide, creating a sense of heaviness and thickness. The brushwork resembles the style of the earlier Northern dynasties (420-589). Given that this scroll does not use the characters mandated by Empress Wu in 690, it is thought to have been written within ten or so years of Wang Bo's death.
On the back of this handscroll are copied late Heian-period (794-1185) writings on the Buddhist precepts including Shibun kaihon ryaku, a text on the Precepts in Four Divisions. This scroll, thought to have been brought from China during the Nara period (710-794), was preserved at Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara. It formerly belonged to the painter Tomioka Tessai (1837-1924).