Inscriptions on stone surfaces during the Tang (AD 618-907) and Song (960-1279) dynasties provided a wealth of knowledge to scholars in subsequent dynasties.
The scholars invented rubbing methods to reproduce inscriptions on surfaces, turning three-dimensional inscriptions into two-dimensional marks on paper. Gradually the methods developed into a branch of Chinese epigraphy, attracting endless streams of literati.
During the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), leading royal court official He Shaoji (1799-1873) gained fame by virtue of his superb talent in calligraphy and epigraphy.
Now, an ongoing exhibition at Zhejiang Art Museum displays 150 pieces of his top-flight works, offering people a well-rounded picture of the gifted man.
He was born into a literary family in Hunan Province and started to learn calligraphy when he was a kid. At the beginning, he mimicked the regular and semi-cursive script styles of master Yan Zhenqing (AD 709-784) and then developed his own writing style.
He visited Zhejiang Province seven times. He was apprenticed to Ruan Yuan (1764-1849), governor of then Zhejiang Province, and built a deep friendship with Monk Liuzhou (1791-1858) who lived in Hangzhou's Jingci Temple and invented a rubbing technique known as quanxingtuo (全形拓), a 3D rubbing method.