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Sha Menghai, the Master Calligrapher
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In the year the Qing Monarchy was overthrown by the 1911 Revolution, a newspaper was received by the Jintang School in Cixi, to which a big square stamp in ancient seal characters was affixed. The regret was that none of the teachers and students could figure out the characters on the stamp. Then, a student came up, took over the newspaper, studied it carefully, and read out loudly, 'The Seal of the Chief Military Commander of Hubei Province of the Republic of China'. All the teachers and the students cast admirable eyes upon this youngster. The youngster was no other than Sha Menghai, who was merely 12 years old then and became a master in modern calligraphy later.

Sha Menghai (1900 - 1992), also named Menghai and formerly named Wenruo, with other names of Shihuang, Shacun and Jueming, was born in Shacun, Yin County. Born into a family of a famous doctor and scholar, Sha Menghai received good family education and studied seal cutting from an early age. He studied in the Jintang School of Cixi, and graduated from the No. 4 Normal School of East Zhejiang. At about the age of 20, Sha Menghai's calligraphy was already well known. In 1922, during his stay in Shanghai as a private tutor, Sha Menghai had the chance of meeting calligraphy masters like Kang Youwei and Wu Changshuo, whom he admired very much, and such meetings had far-reaching influence upon his calligraphy and seal cutting. In 1925, he taught at the Correspondence School of Fine Arts and Writing Art of the Commercial Press, where he learnt classic literature from Feng Junmu and Chen Qihuai, and improved himself greatly. On the monthly Journal of Chinese edited by Zhang Taiyan, many times Sha Menghai published his inscription works. In 1927, all four younger brothers of Sha Menghai were wanted by Guomingtang for involvement in revolutionary activities, and his home was looted.

In spite of this, Sha Menghai returned home, and took his mother and the whole family to Shanghai, where he made a living by selling calligraphic works and borrowing from others. Painstaking practice and ceaseless study during this difficult time further enhanced his calligraphic attainment. In 1929, Sha Menghai, aged 29, was staffed as assistant professor of Zhongshan University, Guangzhou. From 1931 on, he served as a secretary with Nanjing Central University, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Communication. In 1941, with recommendation of Chen Bulei, Sha Menghai worked on the Team of Attendants of Chiang Kai-shek. In 1949, he refused to go to Taiwan. Upon founding of the People's Republic of China, he worked as professor in the Department of Chinese, Zhejiang University. In 1963, he worked as calligraphy professor in the Department of Chinese Paintings of Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts. In 1979, he was selected director of Xileng Seal Society and vice chairman of Chinese Association of Calligraphers. He died in Hangzhou in 1992.

With 70 years of practice in calligraphy, Sha Menghai was respected as a master in modern calligraphy. He witnessed the development of modern calligraphy since the time of the Republic of China. By the age of 50, his calligraphy featured various styles of seal, official script, regular script, cursive script and grass style. In his late years, he specialized in cursive script and grass style in particular. His calligraphy seemed to have great momentum, vigorous, profound and sturdy, having its own style. It could be said that his pursuit of calligraphy art was both deep and broad, and reached a superb state. He was knowledgeable, rich in experience, and exact in pursuit of study. He searched deep in the art of calligraphy, paleography, the art of seal cutting, epigraphy, and archaeology. His works published on calligraphy alone include 'Art of Calligraphy in Last 300 Years', 'Briefs on the Art of Seals', 'Sha Menghai on Calligraphy', 'History of the Art of Seals', 'Illustrated History of Chinese Calligraphy', 'Collection of Sha Menghai's Calligraphic Works', 'Seal Cuttings of Lansha Library', 'Chronicle of Sha Menghai's Calligraphy'. He was the editor-in-chief of works 'A Grand Collection of China's New Literature (Calligraphy Volume)' and so on.
 

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