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Asian art

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Qin Baoji


- 1882


‘Xiang gives a polite response: Today my whole retinue returned [to their own homes]. A chill in the air struck, and I was in bed till late afternoon. I am very grateful to you for the new tea you sent me. As for the belt, I did see a few some days ago, yet none of them were exceptional. If I find a good one, I shall inform you immediately.’
Inscription and signature: Baoji.

Qin Baoji (alias Yaochen, style name Qianshu) was a native of present day Wuxi in Jiangsu province. In 1867 he passed the prefecture level of the civil service examination and was granted the ‘xiucai’ degree. He was then selected as a student to study at the Imperial Academy. Qin excelled in poetry and had published an anthology of his own poems (1).

The calligraphy is a ‘lin’ (close copy) of an unidentified earlier master’s 'chidu' (personal letter). Before the invention of paper, bamboo strip and slabs of wood were used to write messages on. Originally, during the Han dynasty, a regular sized wood slab, known as a ‘chidu’, was used to write government decrees. Later the term ‘chidu’ came to mean ‘personal letter’. It is evident that the source for calligraphy during the Jin dynasty – the period when the ‘tiexue’ tradition was shaped – relied mainly on surviving handwritten letters by calligraphers of the time. During this period correspondence between private persons became more and more important among scholars. The earliest extant calligraphic work by a famous calligrapher is a letter written by Lu Ji (261–303) of the Western Jin, now known as ‘Pingfu tie’. The most important works by another calligrapher, Wang Xizhi, come to us in the form of letters and notes. Unlike other formal writing, these personal letters written in a more casual and informal style of running or cursive script with a carefree manner, are greatly treasured and are taken to be at the heart of the ‘tiexue’ tradition: the study of classical calligraphy models.

1 See Dou Zhen, Qingchao shuhuajia bilu (Records of colligraphers and painters of the Qing period).

‘The Poetic Mandarin: Chinese Calligraphy from the James Hayes Collection’. pg.91.
© 2005 Art Gallery of New South Wales


Place where the work was made

Jiangsu Province China

Media category


Materials used

hanging scroll; ink on paper


166.1x 46.0 cm image; 254.3 x 59.4 cm scroll

Signature & date

Signed l.l. in Chinese, inscribed in black ink "... Baoji".
Signed l.l. in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Qin Baoji Yin [artist's seal]".
Not dated.


Gift of Dr. James Hayes 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Qin Baoji

Works in the collection



Where the work was made
Jiangsu Province

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


LIU Yang, The poetic mandarin: Chinese calligraphy from the James Hayes collection, Sydney, 2005, 90 (illus.), 91. 23