He was exterminated at the age of 14 and deified at the age of 76

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In the midsummer of the sixth year of Zhenguan (632), Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty, lishimin came to Jiucheng palace outside Chang’an to spend the summer.

It used to be the Renshou palace of Emperor Wen Yang Jian of Sui Dynasty. It is said that he once “hid his beauty in the golden house”. Later, empress Dugu, who was jealous, found out that the conflict between husband and wife was imminent. Emperor Wen of Sui Dynasty left the country and left in anger.

Although some ministers tried to persuade him, Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty took it as his duty to live in the world and changed his mind. However, when he returned to the palace, he still expressed the feeling that “I am the son of heaven and cannot be free”.

As one of the most diligent emperors in history, Emperor Wen of Sui Dynasty did not visit Renshou palace many times. Later, Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty even toured the Jiangnan in the East, so Renshou palace was idle for a long time.

After entering the Tang Dynasty, Emperor Taizong, the new emperor, spent a lot of money to repair the former Imperial Palace, and named it Jiucheng palace with the meaning of “Jiuchong” as the imperial summer resort of the Tang Dynasty.

When the party entered the palace city, the air smelled of moist soil.

Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty was so magical that he ordered people to look for the source of the smell everywhere. Then, under a bush, people found a moist soil layer.

Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty used his walking stick to dig the wet soil and knocked down the rocks. A spring burst out of the rocks. He took some with his hand and tasted it. Suddenly, he felt that his mouth was full of saliva, and his thirst for heat had disappeared. He was very happy in his heart.

Under the long live of the ministers, Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty named the spring “Liquan” and ordered Wei Zheng to write Fu in calligraphy by ouyangxun, a calligrapher. This is the famous “Li Quan Ming of Jiucheng Palace” in later generations.



“Jiucheng palace inscription on Liquan” rubbing copy (part)


Source: Network


That year, ouyangxun was 76 years old.

His trembling hands made the writing of the imperial edict quite challenging, but the inscription on Liquan in the Jiucheng palace still showed the beauty of the European style artistic conception of “danger, strength, thinness and hardness without losing tact and smoothness”. Every stroke was strictly abiding by the law and neat rules. No wonder it was honored as the “best inscription in the world” by later generations.


Few people know that ouyangxun’s caution in writing stems from his unfortunate past.

In his early years, ouyangxun was born into a noble family with hairpin tassels. His grandfather ouyanghe was the founding father of Nan Chen. According to the holy decree, he and his son ouyanghe have been in Lingnan for many years, and have always enjoyed prestige among the people.

After ouyanghe died, ouyanghe inherited his father’s mantle and became the governor of Guangzhou.

At that time, Han Zigao, Hua Jiao and other important officials were suspected by the imperial court one after another. They were defeated and died. Ouyanghe was deeply frightened.

In 569, the first year of the Taijian reign of the southern Chen Dynasty, Chen Xu, the assistant minister, usurped the throne and became independent. He was known as Emperor Xuan of Chen in history. Of course, I’m worried about the addition of a hundred officials under the rule.

Therefore, shortly after his accession to the throne, Emperor Xuan Chen issued an imperial edict to enlist ouyanghe as general Zuowei, and ordered him to go north with his family and return to the capital Jiankang (now Nanjing, Jiangsu).

Remembering those colleagues who had met with misfortune, ouyanghe inevitably had a suspicion in his heart that the imperial court was about to step down. In order to protect his family, he decided to gamble on his family’s reputation in Lingnan for many years and set up a rebellion.



The image of ouyanghe in the animated short film the legend of Madam Xian annihilates ouyanghe


Image source: film and television screenshot


However, under the joint attack of Mrs. Xian Tai, the leader of Baiyue in Lingnan, and the official Army of Nanchen, ouyanghe, who held Guangzhou, was finally defeated and died.

Ouyang Xun was the only one to escape the huge Ouyang family.

That year, he was only 14 years old.

The family upheaval and the bad name of the descendants of the anti Communist Party forced this young man, who was previously ignorant of the world, to rethink his life.

It was precisely because of this family accident that ouyangxun was very cautious when he grew up.

Fortunately, shortly after the collapse of the Ouyang family, due to the death of the empress dowager, the southern Chen court granted amnesty to the world. As a “fugitive”, ouyangxun recovered his freedom.

Entrusted by ouyanghe before his death, President Jiang, who was then an official of Donggong, adopted him.

President Jiang, the master of Chinese characters, was famous in the literary world of the Southern Dynasty. It is said that Xiao Yan, Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty, created the poem about his feelings, and he contributed wisdom. However, President Jiang is well known to the world, which belongs to the period when he assisted empress Chen in governing the country.

Empress Chen liked the palace banquets and was fatuous and harmful to the country. In order to serve him well, President Jiang did everything he could to help empress Chen create famous poems. When the song “Yushu backyard flower” was sung in the north and south of the river, President Jiang also became a despised “sex guest” of later generations.

Apart from politics, President Jiang was still the most outstanding writer and calligrapher at that time. According to historical records, Jiang was always one of the twenty-one masters of calligraphy in the Chen Dynasty, and his style of calligraphy had the legacy of Wang Xizhi.

Under the personal guidance of President Jiang, ouyangxun, who was still young, began to study and write. During this period, ouyangxun’s calligraphy naturally followed the running style that Wang Xizhi had always been good at. The “danger” and “strength” in Wang Xizhi’s calligraphic works are also imperceptibly integrated into ouyangxun’s brushwork.

Although Jiang is always the inheritor of the style of writing of the “two kings”, President Jiang was born in the south of the Yangtze River and led the style of writing in the Chen Dynasty. His words must also absorb the style of writing in the Southern Dynasty. The beauty of the calligraphy style of the Southern Dynasty enabled ouyangxun to learn from both the north and the south.

According to historical records, ouyangxun was good at reading classics and history in his youth, especially in historical records, Hanshu and post Hanshu. With his literary accomplishment and Jiang Zong’s social status, ouyangxun’s future can be expected.

Unfortunately, ouyangxun is very ugly. Later, sun Wuji, the Prime Minister of the Tang Dynasty who met him, claimed that ouyangxun “shrugged his shoulders into a mountain and did not show his head. Who can draw this macaque on the corner of the forest?”. It means that ouyangxun has a hunchback with his head pinched and shoulders pinched, just like a monkey just out of the mountain. It is also rumored that ouyangxun is not the son of Ouyang he, but a human demon freak born after his mother made peace with the macaque.

In short, ouyangxun’s appearance makes him not have the spirit of standing in the court. His identity as a “traitor” was well known, so the Ouyang family, who had been officials for generations, came to ouyangxun and stopped abruptly.

Along with his adoptive father Jiang Zong’s scholarly style, ouyangxun must find another way to study calligraphy for himself.

It is said that ouyangxun once saw the inscription of Suo Jing, a calligrapher of the Jin Dynasty, when he was riding on a horse. A quick glance makes him happy. After running for a few miles, he still remembered the inscription on the tablet. So he simply turned his horse’s head, turned back to the monument, stopped to appreciate it, and left three days later.

Ouyang Xun’s dedication and specialization in learning calligraphy laid a solid foundation for his later creation of “European style” calligraphy.

In the 14th year of the reign of emperor Taijian of Southern Chen (582), Emperor Xuan of Chen died, and it was chenshubao, the crown prince of the eastern palace, who had been greatly assisted by President Jiang, that was, the empress Chen. After the empress ascended the throne, President Jiang ushered in the peak of his life. He paid homage to the Minister of ancestral hall, and was transferred to the Minister of imperial court to take over the power of imperial court.


? (Tang Dynasty) empress Chen of yanliben’s Atlas of emperors of previous dynasties.


The only advantage for ouyangxun is that he has more opportunities to study calligraphy and learning.

Thanks to the special relationship between the late Lord and his adoptive father, the calligraphy and paintings hidden in the inner palace of the Chen Dynasty can be seen through ouyangxun’s hands.

After thousands of swords, ouyangxun was able to recognize weapons. His high-purity appreciation of calligraphy and painting gave him conditions and abilities that other calligraphers did not have. These also left a deep impression on the formation of the style of “European style” integrating the official script of the Northern Wei Dynasty and the meaning of Han Li’s brushwork in the future.


Jiang Zong, who is especially good at poetry, is not good at supporting the country. Behind the magnificent palace poems and the singing and dancing of beauties, Nanchen, who has been in power for only 30 years, collapsed.

As a Tsai Fu, the elderly president Jiang was branded as a conqueror and surrendered to Emperor Wen of Sui Dynasty Yang Jian together with empress Chen.

As the adopted son of President Jiang, ouyangxun also went to Daxing city (now Xi’an, Shaanxi).

Ouyangxun, 33, was obviously unprepared from a rogue minister to a subjugated bastard. Fortunately, the change of dynasty did not have a great impact on ouyangxun. Apart from the abuse he had been used to, his life was as plain as water.

He devoted all his energy to studying calligraphy.


? (Jin Dynasty) WangXiZhi

“Calligraphy of sunny days when snow is fast” (part)



In the Sui Dynasty, calligraphic theories that attached importance to FaDu have emerged. For example, monk Zhiguo’s “Ode to the heart” focuses on the study of single word structure, creating a precedent in the field of calligraphy. However, Zhiguo’s calligraphic theory overemphasizes the structure of the font, but ignores the embodiment of the main emotions of the calligraphers since the Wei and Jin Dynasties.

Ouyangxun thinks that this kind of calligraphy theory is not desirable. He pointed out that to write well, the key is to use a pen.

In his calligraphic theory eight Jue, ouyangxun emphasized that the writer should hold the pen with “empty fists and straight wrists, fingers and palm empty”. Every time you write, you must be implicit, that is, no matter when you start or when you close your pen, you must hide your brush.

At the same time, the person using the pen should “match up and down”. The turning point between strokes needs to pay attention to the conversion of font structure, so that the strokes of words and sentences can be cautious, thick, complete and not missing.

However, to create top-notch calligraphy works, these alone are not enough.

As the saying goes, “calligraphy originates from nature”, ouyangxun believes that a masterpiece handed down from generation to generation is not only an imitation of the previous handwriting, but also reflects the heart of the calligrapher. Only by feeling everything in the world and advocating nature can we achieve the natural way of calligraphy works.

Although calligraphy should follow the law of literary prose, it should not be rigidly bound by the law. Only when the calligrapher has a “Dharma” in his mind, and “the situation changes with its dexterity”, can he fully display the flexibility and nature of his works and create excellent works.

With the sublimation of calligraphy theory, ouyangxun’s calligraphy works also made a qualitative leap and soon became famous. In order to see ouyangxun’s calligraphy style, dignitaries and dignitaries came to the door one after another and asked for inscriptions and epitaphs.


? (Tang Dynasty) ouyangxun’s memorial of Zhongni dream (part).


With his superb calligraphy skills, ouyangxun finally got the opportunity to become an official.

In the first year of the great cause of the Sui Dynasty (605), ouyangxun, who was nearly half a century old, was appointed as Dr. Taichang, and together with Chu Liang, pan Hui and other current celebrities, he wrote biographies for the former dynasty.

The compilation of national history has always been a great achievement and an extremely long work. Editors can often be promoted when history books are completed. Although Dr. Taichang spoke lightly, it was undoubtedly a new beginning for ouyangxun.

Before the completion of the history books, the great Sui Empire had gone to ruin step by step in the years of uprising and turmoil.


Ouyangxun was puzzled by the fact that he had been building history books for the country for more than ten years, but in the end everything was empty. But fortune and misfortune depended on each other, and he would never have thought that the spring of his official career was coming.

Soon, usurper yuwenhuaji was killed by doujiande under the banner of King Qin. As an old minister of the Sui Dynasty, ouyangxun was also invited by Dou Jiande to work for him.


? Dou Jiande, king of Xia. Image source: film and television screenshot

At this time, doujiande had the same thoughts as yuwenhuaji, and wanted to have a sense of ceremony and claim the title of king and Emperor. But he was a rude man, and he was good at fighting. It really made him follow the etiquette and take the lead in sacrifice. I’m afraid he couldn’t even understand the son Chou Yin Mao at the time of sacrifice.

In this way, among a group of old ministers in the Sui Dynasty, Dou Jiande fell in love with ouyangxun, who wrote well, and asked him to serve as the Taichang Minister of his own Daxia regime, specializing in etiquette and sacrifice.

However, history made a joke about ouyangxun: he was only employed with a certificate for two years, and was forced to be laid off again.

In the fifth year of Wude of Tang Dynasty (622), lishimin, the king of Qin, launched a decisive battle with Dou Jiande at the tiger prison and defeated the Xia army.

Ouyangxun became a prisoner again.

Originally, ouyangxun did not have the qualification to be reused because of his years of experience as a “temporary worker”, but it happened that Li Yuan, the highest speaker of the Tang Empire, was ouyangxun’s close friend when he took office in the Sui Dynasty.

With the care of his good friend, ouyangxun, as a subordinate minister, was directly promoted to the position of the Tang Dynasty’s geizhong, and came to the side of Li Yuan, the emperor Gaozu of the Tang Dynasty, as a strategic adviser.

At that time, due to years of war, countless profiteers deliberately hoarded grain and bid up prices, which plunged the newly built Datang into a heavy economic crisis. All the princes were busy conquering the world by force, and no one had time to deal with the dilapidated economic order.

On the other hand, in the early Tang Dynasty, the official still used the five baht coins circulating since the Han Dynasty. However, years of continuous wars since the Wei and Jin dynasties have led to the extremely fragile circulation mechanism of five baht coins, and the problems of counterfeiting and unequal weight of coins are common in the market.

In order to stabilize the market price, the Tang Dynasty urgently needs a standard coin to regulate the trading mode of the subjects under the world and stabilize the economic order of the Empire. Therefore, Li Yuan ordered to cast new coins throughout the country to guide the people to circulate and use them.

The casting technology and shape of the new currency were at the top level at that time. In order to give this set of Tongbao a recognizable mark, Li Yuan asked ouyangxun to personally inscribe “Kaiyuan Tongbao”.


? Kaiyuan Tongbao is stored in Liaoning Provincial Museum. Figure source: the idea of the figure bug


It is worth mentioning that with the issuance of Kaiyuan Tongbao, the Tang Dynasty succeeded in stabilizing prices. In the following years, with the prosperity of the Tang Dynasty, Kaiyuan Tongbao became one of the most valuable currencies in the world. Ouyangxun’s writing style is solemn, handsome and straight. It also circulates around the world and spreads all over the world through the four big characters of “Kaiyuan Tongbao”.

It is said that when ouyangxun’s words spread to Koryo in the East, the king mistook ouyangxun for a big man and praised him greatly. After the emissary entered the Tang Dynasty, he called on Ouyang to inquire about his demeanor. When ouyangxun stood in front of the emissary with an ape like body, the other party was scared and almost fainted. People didn’t think that people were as far away as words.


After the abdication of emperor Gaozu Li Yuan of the Tang Dynasty, the new Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty also held ouyangxun in high esteem.

The literary minded Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty set up the Hongwen museum with his “18 scholars” as the team to develop culture and gather talents. Ouyangxun was absorbed. Compared with his previous wandering life, he was relatively happy and comfortable in his later years.

In addition to his daily study of classics and banquets, ouyangxun also had many opportunities to participate in various palace gatherings and show his other side of being good at writing and humor.

Once, Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty gave all officials a big shot. Xiao Yu, the Duke of the Song Dynasty who was the prime minister at that time, repeatedly failed to hit the target. Ouyangxun, who accompanied him, immediately wrote and wrote a poem “ridicule Xiao Yu’s shooting”:

The wind blows slowly, and a weak hand controls a strong bow.

If you want to turn higher and lower, you should return the west to the East.

Land on the ground for ten times and hold your hands in the air.

It is the Duke of song who asked for this.

If someone had mocked him like this, he would have fallen out with him with his honest personality. However, in the face of ouyangxun, Xiao Yu not only did not criticize, but also acquiesced in his “objective evaluation” of his archery ability.

It can be seen that ouyangxun was very good at getting along with princes and ministers.

In view of the fact that sun Wuji ridiculed himself in public for being like a macaque, ouyangxun said: “shrink your head and keep your back warm, and your crotch is afraid of your belly cold. It’s only because of your heart, so the dough.” After positively explaining his appearance, he did not forget to make a mockery of zhangsunwuji’s guilty conscience and anxiety.


In this regard, sun Wuji suddenly felt speechless. There is no other way but to remove the empress Chang sun.

In fact, ouyangxun’s achievements in calligraphy have never been despised by others because of his appearance.

Yu Shinan, another famous calligrapher at the same time as ouyangxun, said bluntly when facing Chu suiliang’s request for advice: “if you need to learn calligraphy, you must first take him as your teacher.”

Yu Shinan’s high praise also made ouyangxun and his regular script in European style recognized as “another mainstay after Wang’s style of calligraphy” in the history of calligraphy.

In the 15th year of Zhenguan (641), ouyangxun, 85, died of illness at home.


? portrait of ouyangxun. Source: Network


As for his calligraphy achievements handed down to future generations, Tang Dynasty calligraphy theorist zhanghuaiguan once said: “the eight styles of inquiry are as strong as possible, the strokes are strong and dangerous, the seal script is particularly excellent, and the flying white crown is unique, which is more severe than the ancients.”

When he was born in troubled times, his appearance was strange and ugly. He was captured several times and was cursed… But ouyangxun always understood that “all appearances are false”. His appearance and life experience are just a shell living in the world.

Only with strength and works can we break the illusion and remain immortal!


[Tang] Wei Zheng: Sui Shu, Zhonghua Book Company, 1973

[song] Li Fang: Taiping Guangji, Zhonghua Book Company, 2020

Heyongsheng: ouyangxun, Shanxi Education Press, 2006

Zhuguantian: ouyangxun chronicle, Chinese painting and calligraphy, 2010, issue 8

Wangjiannong: Light — on ouyangxun, the four great calligraphers of the Tang Dynasty, beauty and the times, 2017, issue 7

Fanguangping: ouyangxun and his calligraphy, liberal arts teaching, 1995, issue 2

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