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Collection

An image of Couplet by CHEN Yanke
Alternate image of Couplet by CHEN Yanke Alternate image of Couplet by CHEN Yanke

CHEN Yanke

(China  – )

Title
Couplet
Place of origin
China
Media category
Calligraphy
Materials used
pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper
Dimensions

137.2 x 32.7cm each image; 162.7 x 38.2cm each:

a - right scroll; 137.2 x 32.7 cm; image

a - right scroll; 162.7 x 38.2 cm; scroll

b - left scroll; 137.2 x 32.7 cm; image

b - left scroll; 162.7 x 38.2 cm; scroll

Signature & date
Signed c.l. part b, in Chinese, inscribed in black ink “…Chen Yanke” Signed l.l. part b, in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Chen Yanke yin [artist's seal]". Signed l.l. part b, in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Di zhi [artist's seal]". Not dated.
Credit
Gift of Dr. James Hayes 2003
Accession number
305.2003.a-b
Location
Not on display
Further information

‘The falling of flowers onto earth is a carefree incident;
On the branches, the singing birds are also adept at talk.’
Inscription and signature: Chen Yanke.

In a witty way, the couplet extols nature and expresses joy with the seasons. It is written in ‘kaishu’ (regular script), and is close to the style of Ou Dayuan. The characters are square and architectural, showing a proper, compact construction of the ‘kaishu’ style. During the Qing period, ‘kaishu’ was not only a means to seek imperial favour, it became an exacting ‘chancellery style’, a model for all government documents. Students who aspired to government office started learning with Tang models of ‘kaishu’ script, as reflected in this piece.

The life of Chen Yanke is unknown.

‘The Poetic Mandarin: Chinese Calligraphy from the James Hayes Collection’. pg.139.
© 2005 Art Gallery of New South Wales

The couplet, written on two narrow pieces of paper or silk, and hung either side of a large painting or doorway, is one of the most common forms of calligraphic art and has a long standing history in China. They first appeared in the Five Dynasties period (907-979) as pairs of plaques, carved after written master copies, to decorate architectural columns, courtyards and garden doorways. Couplets for indoor display, written on paper or silk, came into existence in the 17th century and gained great popularity in the Qing dynasty. The couplets themselves are either taken from classical poetry or contemporary literary works composed by the calligraphers themselves and their friends. A couplet is made up of two parts called the head and the tail. The two lines of verse are antithetically parallel. Formerly it was a very common practice to send them to friends or relations on such occasions as marriages and birthdays, or as condolences to families of deceased persons.

Asian Art Department, AGNSW, August 2003.

Bibliography (1)

LIU Yang, The poetic mandarin: Chinese calligraphy from the James Hayes collection, Sydney, 2005, 138 (illus.), 139. cat.no. 46

Exhibition history (1)

The poetic mandarin: Chinese calligraphy from the James Hayes collection, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 23 Sep 2005–27 Nov 2005