Accompanying text of "Heart" sutra written by Wen Cheng-ming (1470-1559)
4 colophons and 23 seals: 1 colophon, dated 1543, and 2 seals of Wen Peng (1498-1573); 1 colophon, dated 1543, and 2 seals of Wen Chia (1501-1583); 1 colophon, dated 1584, and 3 seals of Wang Shih-mou (1536-1588); 2 seals of Chou Feng-lai (16th c.); 3 seals of Sung Lo (1634-1713); 5 seals of the Ch'ien-lung emperor (r. 1736-95); 1 colophon, dated 1902, and 1 seal of Fei Nien-tz'u (1885-1905); 4 seals of Weng Wan-go (20th c.); 1 seal unidentified.
Wen Cheng-ming's written text of the Maha Prajnaparamita hridaya sutra (Mo-ho-pang-jo po-lo-mi-to hsin-ching or The Heart of the Perfection of the Great Wisdom, commonly known as the "Heart" sutra) is the short form of the original Sanskrit text translated by the Buddhist pilgrim Hsüan-chuang in 649 (Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo, 1930, VIII, 848; for English translation see Conze, Prajnaparamita Texts, 1974, pp. 142-43). He wrote in his famous small, regular style (hsiao-k'ai) and signed it: "Cheng-ming, written in a boat at K'un-shan, on the twenty-first day of the ninth month, in the jen-yin year, the twenty-first year of the Chia-ching era ."
Colophon by Wang Shih-mou:
Chou Yü-shün [Feng-lai] of K'un-shan was a scholarly, refined connoisseur of antiquities. He had acquired the poem written by Chao Ch'eng-chih [Chao Meng-fu] about the exchage of tea for Chao's calligraphy of the Prajna sutra. But the sutra itself, also written by Chao Meng-fu, is lost. He therefore asked Ch'iu Shih-fu [Ch'iu Ying] to do a painting and had Wen Cheng-ming, the artist-in-attendance, write the Hridaya Sutra in the "small, regular" style for replacement. Both works are so excellent that even Chao Meng-fu himself would certainly applaud if he should be reborn to see them. I, Shih-mou, had gotten possession of this scroll from the family of Chou Yü-shün, and since it was so wonderfully matched with one of the treasures in my collection. the Hridaya Sutra written by Chao Meng-fu for Priest Li in "running script," like the reuniting of two halves of a jade pi, I completed the scroll with the several colophons written for the "tea-exchange" poem. I did this because the painting of Ch'iu Ying and the calligraphy of Wen Cheng-ming are definitely masterpieces by themselves with absolutely no need to depend on any of the colophons written for the Chao Meng-fu poem. Furthermore, the two sons of Wen Cheng-ming, Shou-ch'eng [Wen P'eng] and Hsiu-ch'eng [Wen Chia]. have each written a colophon explaining the reason for replacing the calligraphy. As their writings are both acceptable for high standard, I didn't want to throw them away. [So by separating these into two scrolls] I was able to get two complete works of art in one clever stroke. I was quite pleased with myself, and hope that those who see this scroll shall not get suspicious because of the missing colophons.
Wang Shih-mou wrote in his Jih-sun-chai study, on the first day of the tenth month, in the chia-shen year of the Wan-li era .
Colophon by Wen P'eng:
I-shao [Wang Hsi-chi] wrote in exchange for a flock of geese. Su Tung-po wrote in exchange for meat. Both episodes have become legends of a thousand years. Sung-hsüeh [Chao Meng-fu] "teased" Priest Kung for tea, and the story was immediately immortalized in the poems by all the famous scholars of the times. Indeed, how could one say his humor and elegance are not equal to the ancient worthies? Unfortunately, the poetry has survived but the writing of the sutra is lost. Yü-shün [Chou Feng-lai] therefore asked my father to make up the writing and so here is the complete work of art.
Respectfully inscribed by Wen P'eng in the mid-summer of 1543.
Colophon by Wen Chia:
Sung-hsüeh [Chao Meng-fu], in exchanging tea leaves for his writing of the Prajna, had put himself in the company of Yu-chün [Wang Hsi-chih] who exchanged geese for his writing of the Huang-t'ing sutra [the Yellow Chamber, or the Wai-ching ching, a Taoist text attributed to the Yellow Emperor]. However, was this romantic and cultivated gesture really intended for such small things? Actually, he was only proud that the excellence of his calligraphy had made him worthy to be the successor of the Ch'in Dynasty master. Since, very unfortunately, Chao Meng-fu's writing [of the Prajna] was already lost, my father therefore agreed to replace it, and did the calligraphy in the style of the Yellow Chamber. In addition, Yu-shün [Chou Feng-lai] had asked Mr. Ch'iu Shih-fu [Ch'iu Ying] to do a painting of the sutra writing story in the style of Li Lung-mien at the head of the scroll. Now it would seem the entire episode should go down in history for immortality.
Respectrully recorded by Wen Chia, on the eighth day of the eighth month, in the year of k'uei-mao . trans. WKH