2016/01/27

Zhu Yunming 祝允明 (Zhu Zhishan 祝枝山)

Zhu Yunming (祝允明, 1460–1527) was a scholar and calligrapher of the Ming Dynasty. His courtesy name was Xizhe (希哲) and his pseudonym was Zhishan (枝山) or Zhizhi Shanren (枝指山人), which came from the fact that his right hand had an extra finger. He is often referred to as Zhu Zhishan (祝枝山).

Portrait of Zhu Yunming

Born into an illustrious Suzhou family, Zhu Yunming was commended in the provincial examinations, the second stage of the civil service career ladder, at the age of 33 but failed in several attempts at the national examinations. In 1514 he took office as magistrate of Xingning County in Guangdong Province and in 1522 was promoted to assistant prefectural magistrate of Yingtian District (应天府, now Nanjing). He retired after less than a year and died at the age of 67. Zhu was an outstanding representative of the literary circle in Suzhou, revered not only for his calligraphy, but also for his scholarship, essays, and poetry.

His individual and non-conformist beliefs made him severely critical of Song Neo-Confucianism, the orthodox teaching of his day, seeing it as both ill-founded and constricting. His love of liberty and adherence to the classics are reflected in his calligraphy, which is based on the styles of the Jin and Tang masters, but also executed with an expansive and uninhibited flair.

Zhu Yunming's Work

Zhu is regarded as one of the Four Young Scholars of Jiangnan (the region to the south of the Yangtze River, mainly around Suzhou City). Historically the other three are Tang Yin (唐寅) , Wen Zhengming (文徵明) , and Xu Zhenqing (徐祯卿) .