Kim Gu (1488-1534), Poem by Du Fu


Poem by Du Fu




Poem by Du Fu

Period/Time: Joseon, 16th century

Dimensions: 31.5x21 cm

Calligrapher: Kim Gu (1488-1534)

Accession no. Deoksu 2932-2



Gangsan (江山) in Korean refers to rivers and mountains. These rivers and mountains are not real, however, but are those that are reflected in the mind of the author. In this context, the meaning of Gangsan is similar to that of Sansu--i.e., mountains and waters. Gangsan symbolizes this scenery, and that which goes beyond what our eyes see.



This calligraphy work expresses an excerpt from the poetry of Du Fu, a poet from the Tang Dynasty. The entire work has the following original meaning: 遲日江山麗[ji-ilgang-san-ryeo] 春風花草香[chun-pung-hwa-cho-hyang]: On a languid spring day, rivers and mountains are beautiful and the fragrance of flowers and grasses is carried by the spring breeze.


This poem expresses the poet’s full enjoyment of the energy of spring that fills a mountain on a cozy, languid spring day. The sky is clean, the temperature is warm, and the mountains are filled with grass and trees. It is green everywhere, and various spring flowers bloom. A river flows calmly far in the distance, reflecting a pure light that makes all objects new.


The calligrapher Kim Gu beautifully rendered Du Fu’s poetry as a work of calligraphy. Kim Gu was elegant and sincere. He studied rigorously and excelled at painting as well as poetry, writing, and other forms of literature. In particular, he developed the unique Insuche style of writing, which distinguished him as one of the four greatest calligraphers of Korea.


Calligraphy is a special art. It displays various forms of beauty, even though it uses only one color, black. It can reflect countless complexities amidst its simplicity. The aesthetics of its space are based on its structure and the contrast and balance of its dots and lines. Rhythm is controlled by the strength with which the brush is held, and the viewer’s appreciation will fluctuate according to the length or the complexity of the curves. Although black is the only color used in calligraphy, various unique effects are made based on the calligraphy’s lightness and darkness. Calligraphy transmits an abstract psychological value in the harmonization of meaning with writing style. 



An excerpt from NMK’s magazine: National Museum of Korea vol.1, NMK, 2006 

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