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Couplet in seal script (named side only)

circa 1881


Qiu Yuzhai



‘The writing that resembles an autumnal river is never contaminated by dust.’
Inscription and signature: In the third moon of the year 'xinsi' [1881].

The couplet survives only in the ‘xialian’ (lower piece) that bears the author’s name. However, its ‘shanglian’ (upper piece) can be reconstructed in the light of the same couplet seen elsewhere – the poem of ‘the autumnal river-like writings’ was always coupled with the following line: ‘The spring breeze of great elegance tolerates the myriad things (Chunfeng daya neng rong wu). The inscription dates the couplet to the year of ‘xinsi’, which opens to the possible years of 1881 or 1941. On grounds of script style and the materials, 1881 is plausible. As discussed elsewhere, an enthralment with calligraphy on inscriptions recovered from stone stele and bronzes of ancient times was prevalent during the second part of the Qing dynasty. ‘Zhuanshu (seal script)’ , the archaic form of writing, experienced a revival and was employed widely in the art of calligraphy, as demonstrated in this couplet. Here, each of the slender and rounded lines is evenly and precisely brushed with well-hidden brush tips, resulting in an iron wire-like feature. Note that the author used ‘zhongfeng’ (the tip of the brush in the centre) all the time; thus the corners are all rounded off. The style, called ‘yuzhu zhuan’ (jade chopstick-like seal script), is typical of Li Yangbing’s writing (mid 8th century). The Tang dynasty calligrapher was acclaimed the only great master in this script after Li Si of the Qin dynasty.

Except for the date of the couplet, we know virtually nothing about Qiu Yuzhai.

‘The Poetic Mandarin: Chinese Calligraphy from the James Hayes Collection’. pg.107.
© 2005 Art Gallery of New South Wales


Place where the work was made



circa 1881

Media category


Materials used

hanging scroll; ink on paper


134.3 x 26.6 cm image; 162.5 x 32.9 cm scroll

Signature & date

Signed l.l., in Chinese, inscribed in black ink "... In the third moon of the year of Xinsi (1881), Qiu Yuzhai.".
Signed l.l., in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Chengxian qiushi [artist's seal]".
Signed l.l., in Chinese, stamped in red ink “Qiu Yuzhai yin [artist's seal]".


Gift of Dr. James Hayes 2003


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Qiu Yuzhai

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, 106 (illus.), 107. 30