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Asian art

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Sun Zhimin


1881 - 1961


‘A descendant of the orchid, its fragrant branch is luxuriant and exuberant. Its leaves cast light in the sky and thoroughfare, its roots stretch towards the vast sea. Its dauntless spirit penetrates sacred mountains, and its glory connects to the Milky Way. Its virtue soars along with the wind, its lustre scatters with the rain.’
Inscription and signature: Written in middle spring of the year 'dinghai' [1947] by Sun Zhiming.

Inscriptions carved on stele from the Northern Wei dynasty (386–534) are in the style of regular script. Appearing during the transition era, it was to reflect a bold innovative spirit and an outstanding creative ability in the Tang dynasty (618–907), when the evolution from clerical to regular script occurred. With the decline of the ‘teixue’ tradition (based on classical calligraphic models), stele script became the central focus of a calligraphic revival movement from the mid Qing dynasty until its demise. Among a number of highly praised model stele was the so-called ‘Epitaph of Zhang Xuang’ (or ‘Zhang Heinü’ – ‘Heinü’ was the style name of the deceased), carved in 531. The original stone had long gone missing; however an old ink rubbing of the inscription was rediscovered in the early 19th century by He Shaoji (1799–1863), an advocate of the stele script, who promoted it vigorously. It is a segment of this epitaph that was copied by Sun Zhimin in this hanging scroll.

Sun Zhimin (alias Qincai), a native of Hangzhou, was awarded the ‘jinshi’ degree in 1903, at the age of 23, and at the same time became a member of the prestigious Hanlin Academy. Soon after, he was sent to Japan to study law. Upon his return to China, he established a law school and a ladies’ college in Hangzhou. Between 1910–12, he was the chancellor of Zhejiang College (precursor to Zhejiang University). During his life, he wrote scores of poems and was a well-known calligrapher who generously satisfied anybody who requested his work. His regular script, as demonstrated in this scroll, is formal, dignified but not lacking in elegance, reflecting a typically formal imperial scholar-official’s calligraphic style.

‘The Poetic Mandarin: Chinese Calligraphy from the James Hayes Collection’. pg.128.
© 2005 Art Gallery of New South Wales


Place where the work was made


Cultural origin

Hongzhou county

Media category


Materials used

hanging scroll; ink on paper


76.6 x 21.0 cm image; 180.0 x 31.5 cm scroll

Signature & date

Signed c.l. to l.l., in Chinese, inscribed in black ink “Written in middle spring of the year of Dinghai (1947) by Sun Zhiming."
Signed l.l., in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Qiantang sunshi [artist's seal]".
Signed l.l., in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Zhimin yinxin [artist's seal]".


Gift of Dr. James Hayes 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Sun Zhimin

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


LIU Yang, The poetic mandarin: Chinese calligraphy from the James Hayes collection, Sydney, 2005, 128, 129 (illus.). 41