The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of February 23, 2024

On Happiness, Calligraphy in Seal Script Style (zhuanshu)

On Happiness, Calligraphy in Seal Script Style (zhuanshu)

(Chinese, 1813–1881)
Overall: 132.7 x 32.3 cm (52 1/4 x 12 11/16 in.)
Location: not on view


Yang Yisun transcribed this ancient text on six narrow scrolls, starting at the top right and ending at the bottom left. Yang emphasizes the text’s historic nature by using the seal script style found on stone steles and bronze vessels. On Happiness features reflections of a scholar on a leisurely life in the countryside, composed by Han dynasty official Zhongchang Tong, who died the year the Han dynasty collapsed (AD 220).

The idyllic life described in the text may be an evocation of the past in a time of national crisis. A decade before Yang wrote these scrolls, Anglo-French forces had looted and burned the Summer Palace in Beijing. At the same time, the domestic Taiping rebellion (1850–64), led by a religious fanatic to overthrow the Qing government, had devastated Yang’s homeland, the Jiangnan region, with an estimated 20 million lives lost.
  • ?-1999
    (Han Mo Xuan Co., Ltd., Hong Kong, ?-1999, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art)
    The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, 1999-present
  • Cleveland Museum of Art, “Mrs. Paul Wurzburger Donates Major Calder Mobile to Cleveland Museum of Art, Korean Painting, Japanese Ceramic, Italian Drawing and other Works Acquired” September 8, 1999, Cleveland Museum of Art Archives.
  • Power and Possession: Chinese Calligraphy and Inscribed Objects – Chinese Gallery Rotation 240a, 241c. The Cleveland Museum of Art (organizer) (August 13, 2018-February 3, 2019).
    Main Asian Rotation (Gallery 119). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (March 16-July 13, 2004).
  • {{cite web|title=On Happiness, Calligraphy in Seal Script Style (zhuanshu)|url=false|author=Yang Yisun|year=1871|access-date=23 February 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

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