zūn bēi biǎn tiè 尊碑贬帖
Praising Stone Inscriptions while Belittling Copying from Stone Rubbings
This term means to advocate stone-borne calligraphy while deprecating handcopied script in mere imitation of famed calligraphers. It reflects a calligraphic trend toward natural variation and individual creativity. Ruan Yuan (1764-1849), for example, opposed the age-old tradition of lauding master calligraphers Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi alone and honoring the practice of learning calligraphy only by copying an exemplary sample preserved on paper. He held that stone-borne calligraphy, like hand-copied script, had its own distinctive merits. Bao Shichen (1775-1855) elaborated further on the features of stone-borne calligraphy, stating that it made up for the inadequacies in paper-borne calligraphy. Kang Youwei (1858-1927) saw the loss of original form when paperborne copies passed from hand to hand over generations as justification for favoring stone-borne calligraphy. Calligraphy on stones, he maintained, could show its change and variety over different historical periods. He said that commentaries on calligraphy “helped to highlight the ways of the sages, urge the renewal of monarchical institutions, gain insight into human nature, and explore the laws of change for all things in the universe.” Calligraphy should inspire a re-examination of history on the basis of present-day conditions and prepare people for drastic reform.
Therefore, whether in the form of a brief note or a long scroll, free and uninhibited execution is the merit of paper-borne calligraphy. On the other hand, stone-borne calligraphy boasts structural rigor and discipline marked by deep, powerful execution. (Ruan Yuan: On Stone-borne Calligraphy in the North and Paper-borne Calligraphy in the South)
Many of our contemporaries honor the practice of emulating paper-borne calligraphy. However, calligraphy on that medium has lost its genuineness passing through generations, hence the shift to stone-borne calligraphy. (Kang Youwei: A Further Elaboration on the Techniques of Writing and Calligraphy)