How the Yue Yi lun Was Lost: Calligraphy, the Cultural Legacy, and Tang Women Rulers

Rebecca Doran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dating back to at least the Han dynasty, calligraphy has been a powerful object of culture and a medium of elite education, document preparation, and character evaluation. Discourses surrounding rulers and calligraphy form an important sub-strand in materials on calligraphy, and these accounts often depict calligraphy as a vehicle capable of reflecting a ruler's moral character. This paper explores narratives that blame early Tang women power-holders, in particular, the Taiping and Anle Princesses, for borrowing and subsequently losing precious calligraphic items that were considered the authentic work of Wang Xizhi. The analysis focuses on the ways in which the different narratives describe the physical movement or location of the Wang Xizhi pieces in relation to contemporary rule and factional politics. The narratives interpret the calligraphic manuscripts as an example of the cultural inheritance, to which the ruler should properly relate in particular ways. In this way, the fate of the Wang Xizhi artifacts is understood in terms of the complex relationship between imperial power and the court's cultural legacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)427-461
Number of pages35
JournalFrontiers of Literary Studies in China
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017


  • Anle Princess
  • Taiping Princess
  • Wang Xizhi
  • Wu Zhao
  • Yue Yi lun
  • calligraphy
  • cultural legacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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