Wu Changshuo

Wu Changshuo 吳昌碩 (September 12, 1844 – November 29, 1927) was a native of Anji, Zhejiang Province, but lived in Shanghai. Wu Changshuo is the name for which Wu Junqing, his birth name, is best known. He was born into a scholarly family and for a time toward the end of the Qing dynasty he served as an official in Liaoning but quit after only a month. He later carved a seal for himself with the inscription, “Magistrate of Andong for one month.” He settled in Suzhou in his twenties and was a poet, painter, calligrapher, and seal carver. 

Initially, he devoted himself to poetry and calligraphy with a strong interest in early scripts and was a master of the Stone Drum Script. Only later did he consider himself a painter associated with the “Shanghai school.” As a painter, he was noted for helping to rejuvenate the art of painting flowers and birds. He considered carving seals and doing paintings to be integrated with each other. It’s said that when he was a poor young man, he could not afford stone and had to use broken pieces of brick or tile for carving. In his seal carving he combined the merits of the Wan and Zhe schools and the good points of Qin and Han seals, and then developed his own style. “His seals had various styles which were derived from ancient seals, such as Han seals, clay-sealing seals, and Wei seals. He used different frames on seals – broken, continuous, wide, narrow – or even no frames. He liked to create a natural broken effect and an effect of the combination of calligraphy and seal. He was the first seal maker to emphasize a truly free style approach to contemporary seal making.” His work garnered him fame and exerted a strong influence on twentieth-century Japanese seal carving.

He was one of the founders of the Xiling Seal Society in Hangzhou and later became its president.

From: Lai, T.C. Chinese Seals. Hong Kong: Kelly & Walsh, 1976. (p.80)

“People say I am a good painter, but my calligraphy is better than my painting; some say I am a good calligrapher, but my seal-engraving is better than my calligraphy.”

  • Pinyin: Wú Chāngshuò
  • Wade-Giles: Wu Ch’ang Shih
  • Also known as: Chāngshí 昌石; Dalong; Foulu; Jun; Kutie; Laolu; Pohe; “Taoist” Fu; Jùnqīng 俊卿; Xuegulu
  • Affiliation: Hai and Zhe Schools, Deng School, Wu School
Detail of a painting by Wu Changshuo in the British Museum

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