It happened a few days ago in my studio, just before I started my last calligraphy class of the season. My students brought champagne and we all toasted the occasion. I don't usually drink when I'm writing, but exceptionally I let myself be tempted by a glass. It was hot and humid at the time, and the freshness of the crystalline beverage was a delight. It was then that I remembered the work of Wang Xizhi.
Produced in 353, the Preface to the Collection of the Orchid Pavilion is the best-known text in the history of calligraphy. According to one interpretation, this master of calligraphy wrote the poem that would become one of the most famous in the field during a very special festivity. One day, when he invited family and friends, he organised a meandering stream party during which the participants, seated on the banks of a stream, had to compose a poem before a cup of rice alcohol reached them.
The production certainly merited a few technical corrections in line with the conventions of the time, but Wang Xizhy never considered that he had equalled the raw harmony of his initial work. It is the version of The Master in a drunken stupor that has come down to us and is considered to be his major work. I would have loved to have seen him achieve this feat in such a state.