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Confucius Said—Calligraphy Works of Tong Yang-Tze

[caption]TONG Yang-Tze, Seek to Perfect the Admirable Qualities of Men, 2015, 180 x 388 cm


The Master said, ‘The superior man seeks to perfect the admirable qualities of men, and does not seek to perfect their bad qualities. The mean person does the opposite of this.” 


“Confucius Said—Calligraphy Works of Tong Yang-Tze” will be on view from 17 June to 3 July at Exhibition and Performance Hall, eslite Xin-yi store in Taipei. With 27 calligraphy works TONG Yang-Tze reinterprets the wisdom of Confucius, a Chinese thinker active in the sixth century B.C. and still influential today. The artist TONG Yang-Tze often draws from Chinese classic literature and history, yet she always creates new meaning for the original work in every course of re-writing. She has written Book of Changes, Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Immortal at the River (Linjiang xian) that just closed at eslite spectrum Suzhou store this May. The show “Confucius Said” exhibits TONG Yang-Tze’s new works in these two years. Spanning twenty five centuries, the teachings of Confucius—concerning self-reflection, dealing with people and things, and ethical concerns in general—are revived by TONG’s calligraphy and scintillate with eternal wisdom. 

TONG Yang-Tze was born in Shanghai in 1942. After graduating from the Department of Fine Arts at Taiwan Normal University, she went to the U.S. and acquired her M.F.A. at the University of Massachusetts. Under her father’s instruction, she had modelled after the works of calligraphy masters, such as YANG Zhengqing, WANG Xizhi, and WANG Xianzhi, from the age of eight until high school. In the U.S., she studied Western art theories and began to attempt the application of western composition in her calligraphy. Ultimately, she was able to surpass the limits of traditional Chinese calligraphy and ink art, moving on to develop contemporary artworks that extend the beauty of space and express the rhythm of sound. As TAI Jingnong once remarked, “Calligraphy mirrors one’s mind,” or as a critic indicated: “the Qi of traditional Chinese calligraphy” is turned into “the dynamic rhythm of painting calligraphy” in her work. 


TONG Yang-Tze, Three-point Reflection, 2014, 180 x 97 cm

Zeng Shen, a pupil of Confucius, is quoted as saying: “I daily examine myself on three points: whether, in transacting business for others, I may have been not faithful; whether, in intercourse with friends, I may have been not sincere; whether I may have not mastered and practiced the instructions of my teacher.” The phrase “three-point reflection” has now entered the general Chinese vocabulary. 

TONG Yang-Tze, Three Friendships, 2015, 97 x 180 cm

“Confucius said, ‘There are three friendships which are advantageous, and three which are injurious. Friendship with the upright; friendship with the sincere; and friendship with the man of much observation: these are advantageous. Friendship with the man of specious airs; friendship with the insinuatingly soft; and friendship with the glib-tongued: these are injurious.” 

TONG Yang-Tze, A Natural Ease Is to Be Prized, 2014, 180 x 388 cm

“The philosopher Yu said, ‘In practicing the rules of propriety, a natural ease is to be prized. In the ways prescribed by the ancient kings, this is the excellent quality, and in things small and great we follow them.’” “A natural ease” (he; 和) can also be understood as “harmony”; thus the words can also be rendered: “Harmony is precious.” 

Professor KO Ching-Ming explains:

“Besides paying attention to personal growth, the superior man naturally places even more emphasis on his relations with other people and on responding to the external world as a whole.”

“When superior men seek to perfect the admirable qualities of others, they are able to get along with them even when they do not agree with them, because they respect individual differences and are happy to help others achieve their own personal goals. Aided by the rules of propriety, they are able to live in a harmonious state with others, so that they can reach a state where ‘the Tao proceeds along parallel lines and without contradiction and all creatures help each other along without killing one another.’”

TONG Yang-Tze, The Wise Are Joyful, 2015, 97 x 180 cm

TONG Yang-Tze, The Virtuous Are Long-Lived, 2015, 97 x 180 cm

“The Master said, ‘The wise find pleasure in water; the virtuous find pleasure in hills. The wise are active; the virtuous are tranquil. The wise are joyful; the virtuous are long-lived.’”

TONG Yang-Tze, Neither Anxiety Nor Fear, 2015, 97 x 180 cm

“Sima Niu asked about the superior man. The Master said, ‘The superior man has neither anxiety nor fear.’ We have nothing to fear, provided that we have done nothing wrong and our conscience is clear.”

Professor KO Ching Ming explains:

Wisdom, virtue, and courage are all important to the superior man; but because virtue and wisdom are different, the superior man also comes in different forms.

There are three types of excellence: wisdom, virtue, and courage. The freedom from perplexities that is characteristics of wisdom perhaps depends on insight into human relations and worldly affairs, and not on self-knowledge alone. But being free from anxiety and fear comes from a certain broadness of mind and catholicity of spirit. It also results “when internal examination discovers nothing wrong.” Whether we are called “virtuous” or “bold,” or known simply as “the superior man,” the most important thing is that we have a good conscience and an upright character, and be without fear and hindrances. 

TONG Yang-Tze, Not a Utensil, 2014, 97 x 180 cm

A person of virtue and learning is not limited to just one function or one skill. In other words, such a person is not a narrow specialist, but rather a philosopher who grasps the underlying principles that obtain everywhere. 

TONG Yang-Tze, Not for Anything, 2015, 97 x 180 cm

“The superior man, in the world, does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right, he will follow.” 

TONG Yang-Tze, Affable, But Not Adulatory, 2015, 97 x 180 cm

“The Master said, ‘The superior man is affable, but not adulatory; the mean man is adulatory, but not affable.” 

TONG Yang-Tze, The Virtuous Rest in Virtue, 2015, 97 x 180 cm

“Those who are without virtue cannot abide long either in a condition of poverty and hardship, or in a condition of enjoyment. The virtuous rest in virtue; the wise desire virtue.” 


*Works cited:

Ching-Ming, Ko. “Experiencing Cultural Values: On Tong Yang-Tze’s Reading of the Analects.” Confucius Said. Taipei: eslite bookstore, 2016.

Rur-Bin, Yang. “The Sage and the Decree of Heaven” Confucius Said. Taipei: eslite bookstore, 2016. 

Confucius Said—Calligraphy Works of Tong Yang-Tze

17 June—3 July 2016


Venue | Exhibition and Performance Hall, eslite spectrum Xin-yi store
(6F, No. 11, Songgao Rd. Taipei 11073 Taiwan)

Time | 11am—9pm (17 June: 3pm—9pm)




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