Buddhist Pagoda

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Submitted By jyjkim
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Comparison of Writing in the Formation of its Purpose

The rubbings of a Buddhist Pagoda on display at the Art Institute of Chicago require much attention in its examination; at first glance, the characters look very neat and sharp, each character with clear strokes and contained within its own space. However, upon closer examination, the alignment, character counterpoise, varied use of exposed tip and hidden tip point to the possibility in the calligrapher’s casual manner of writing. I will analyze the inscriptions of the Buddhist Pagoda in comparison to Chu Suiliang’s Yan Pagoda Prefaces to the Holy Teaching; both works of calligraphy aim to praise those disseminating Buddhist ideas and teachings. In addition, these two works are good for comparison since they had been written during the Tang dynasty .

According to the descriptions in addendum by the Art Institute of Chicago, the long inscription carved into the left side of both slabs states that the family of Jia Heida commissioned this pagoda in honorable devotion to his deceased parents. The work is replete with Buddhist metaphors and allusions to the Buddha’s life, the text opening with a bleak perspective on the physical world and then praising both Buddhist teachings of spiritual redemptions and secular values of Chinese filial devoition. The inscription closes with a prayer extolling Buddhist principles.

A similarity between the two works of calligraphy that stands out are the hints of clerical script in the midst of standard script of the time, the kaishu. Although this does not appear so frequently, the attenuated end tips of strokes appear in characters such as ‘tian 天’ (7th column, 3rd row) and ‘da 大’ (5th column, 12th row). The character ‘da’ also appears in the work of Chu’s (4th column, 1st row). The thickening of the stroke is much more obvious however, and the ending…...

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