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Asian art

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Couplet in running script


Lu Runxiang


1841 - 1915


‘[Throughout the eras of] Shuyi and Yinti, seven classics remain guiding principles;
Cangshu and Tuizhu [together with others], eight sages ascended in the same era.’
Inscription and signature: Written at the request of Zixing. Lu Runxiang, alias Fengshi.

According to a Chinese chronology written in the Han dynasty, there spanned 2 260 000 years from the beginning of history till the time of Confucius, consisting of 10 eras that included the Yinti (seventh) and Shuyi (tenth) eras mentioned in the couplet. During Zhuanxu’s reign, there were Eight Worthies who assisted him in ruling the country, including Cangshu and Tuizhu. The late Han Confucianists considered that the 10 eras shaped ‘jing’ (latitude) or a continuous history; while the seven major Confucian classics formed wei (longitude) (1). The couplet is a summary of this historiography that blended together legends with the ideas of late Han Confucianism.

Lu Runxiang (alias Fengshi, style name Shisa) was a native of modern-day Suzhou, Jiangsu province. In 1874, he qualified in the highest imperial examination, taking first place among 337 recipients of the ‘jinshi’ degree, and was granted the crowning honour of ‘zhuangyuan’. With an outstanding academic background, Lu climbed rapidly up the bureaucratic ladder: he was required to serve at the Imperial Study then became libationer of the Imperial Academy. In 1898 he was promoted to sub-chancellor of the Grand Secretariat, then deputy-minister of the Ministry of Ceremonies, president of the Censorate, and minister of the Ministry of Works. In 1909, when Puyi came to the throne, he was appointed the young emperor’s tutor. He was canonised as wenduan (cultivated and upright) upon his death (2).

Lu Runxiang’s accomplishments in calligraphy were made within the tradition of ‘tiexue’ (study of classical calligraphy models), a tradition derived from the graceful art of Wang Xizhi. His running script reflects the style known as ‘foundation of Ou, surface of Zhao’. Lu’s personality found expression in his well-disciplined calligraphy, which seemed to reflect his conservative view on political affairs. During the last years of the Qing dynasty, he was in strong opposition to the reformers’ attempts to establish a constitutional monarchy in China.

1 In Guangya, chapter of Han lizhi
2 See Ke, Shaoming, et al. 1977, ‘Biography 259’ in ‘Qing shigao (History of the Qing dynasty)’, Zhonghua Press, Beijing; Hummel, W. Arthur(ed). 1943 ‘Eminent Chinese of the Ch’ing period, United States Government Printing Office, Washington, p.360–61.

‘The Poetic Mandarin: Chinese Calligraphy from the James Hayes Collection’. pg.88
© 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 scoll, 170 x 34.3 cm

b - left scroll, 170 x 34.3 cm

Signature & date

Signed c.l. part b, in Chinese, inscribed in black ink "... Fengshi, Lu Runxiang".
Signed l.l. part b, in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Lu Runxiang [artist's seal]".
Signed l.l. part b, in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Taifu xian taibao [artist's seal]".
Not dated.


Gift of Dr. James Hayes 2009


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Lu Runxiang

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history