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Is Lee Wan-yong really a master of calligraphy?

Posted November. 02, 2018 07:35,   

Updated November. 02, 2018 07:35


There are some opinions that Lee Wan-yong’s handwriting has not been assessed properly because of his pro-Japanese acts even though his handwriting was excellent during his time. It has been told that Lee Wan Yong was so fascinated with calligraphy that he researched the penmanship of many famous people such as Fu Mi and Dong Qichang of China in depth. Some people point out that Lee Wan-yong wrote the signboard of Dongnimmun or the Daeungjeon Hall of Jikjisa Temple. It became a problem when the Korea Foundation praised Lee Wan-yong as “a great calligrapher of his days,” on its homepage.

Whether calligraphy and personality correspond to each other was a dispute in the past as well. Quan Daxin of the Qing Dynasty argued that art and characteristic are two separate aspects while Ban Feng of the Ming Dynasty claimed that art and characteristic are inseparable. Su Shi of the Song Dynasty, who took a neutral position, said that art is definitely related to characteristic but it may not always match as it can be concealed with technique.

In order to identify whether one is a master of calligraphy, there needs to be a standard for assessment. Su Shi stated that a handwriting should incorporate five elements – spirit, energy, frame, muscle, and complexion. A handwriting cannot be regarded as a good one if it lacks any one of the five elements. Based on this standard, Lee Wan-yong’s handwriting lacks spirit, energy and frame. Although his handwriting has technique in the application of lines and the form, it is difficult to find restrained beauty and dignity. The strokes are not clean and encompass too much superfluousness. Apart from characteristics, it is difficult to say that Lee Wan-yong is a master of calligraphy just by his handwriting.

The trait of Lee Wan-yong’s handwriting is conspicuous in letters. He was able to trick others by using a lot of techniques in calligraphy works but letters are different. His handwriting stretched downwards and this implies that he must have had a unique, spontaneous and sensitive personality. The space between lines are so small that it touches the next line which means that Lee Wan-yong is not considerate of others. The fact that he wrote fast means that he makes speedy decisions. Uneven size of the words and space between lines also imply that he was an unpredictable person.