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Asian art

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Couplet in running script


Ru Shan


1815 - post 1885


‘Precipices block the sun, yet lure the moon;
The aged tree reaching for the sky never obscures the clouds.’
Inscription and signature: Rushan, alias Guanjiu.

Rushan (alias Guanjiu, style name Guxi nanzi) was born into a Manchu family. He passed the civil service examination to gain the ‘jinshi’ degree in 1838. He then had a series of official posts, serving as chief comptroller of Jiangsu provincial revenue, as Zhejiang provincial judge, and then as governor of Sichuan. He was well versed in literature and wrote beautiful poetry. Buddhism also exercised a great influence on him (1).

Rushan admired the style of inscriptions of the Northern Wei stele, and took this as the foundation for his own calligraphy. On this basis, he absorbed and synthesised styles of different scripts, forming his own distinguished calligraphy. This couplet is written in running script, revealing a strong influence from the writings of the Northern Wei stele. Rushan occasionally painted landscapes, using his fingers instead of a brush. His contemporaries compared him with another technically innovative painter, Gao Qipei (1660–1734), who also used his hands – palms, fingers and nails –
in place of the traditional Chinese brush.

1 See Du Wenlan (1851–81), Qiyuan cihua, ‘juan 5’

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


Place where the work was made


Media category


Materials used

pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper


a - right scroll, 125 x 30.7 cm

b - left scroll, 125 x 30.7 cm

Signature & date

Signed c.l. part b, in Chinese, inscribed in black ink "... Guanjiu rushan".
Signed l.l. part b, in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Rushan [artist's seal]".
Not dated.


Gift of Dr. James Hayes 2009


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ru Shan

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history