王羲之 Wang Xizhi, the Saint of Calligraphy, and Gu Kaizhi, the Matchless Painter
Wang Xizhi (c.303-c.361 AD) was born in today's Shandong Province. He was a great calligrapher of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, and was called by later generations the Saint of Calligraphy.
Wang Xizhi studied calligraphy under the calligraphy master Madame Wei in his youth. Then he traveled widely to study tablet inscriptions executed by famous calligraphers of older generations. It is said that he used to practice calligraphy by the pond beside Lan (Orchid) Pavilion in Shaoxing, in today's Zhejiang Province, day and night, until the clear pond water turned black from his dipping his inky brush into it so many times. When he took a rest, he still thought of the structure of characters, and his fingers would trace them on his garments. As a result, his clothes soon became worn out. Wang Xizhi's unique style in both running hand and cursive script had a great influence on later generations of calligraphers. His famous rubbings of stone inscriptions include the Preface to Orchid Pavilion and the Kuaixueshiqing Rubbing. Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty admired Wang Xizhi's calligraphy, and chose 1,000 characters written by him, which he included in a book titled Ancient 1,000-Character Text to be used as a guide for students of calligraphy.
Gu Kaizhi (c.345-406 AD) was an outstanding painter in the Eastern Jin Dynasty. Later generations grouped him together with Lu Tanwei, Zhang Sengyao and Wu Daozi, and called them the "Four Ancestors of Painting" Gu traveled all over south China accumulating rich materials for his paintings.
Gu Kaizhi was especially good at figure painting. He maintained that a subject's heart could be read through looking deep into his or her eyes. He painted the eyes last, and viewers said that only then did the subject come to life. Gu Kaizhi's works have long been lost; what remain nowadays are only facsimiles of his Picture Scroll of Female Scholars, Picture Scroll of the Luoshui River Nymph and Picture Scroll of Virtuous Ladies.