Yu Youren (1879-1964) was a Chinese scholar known for his efforts in helping to overthrow the Qing dynasty and to found the Republic of China. A patriot and a dedicated official of the early Republic, he was also a master in the art of cursive script calligraphy and left behind many works, most of which are in the form of scrolls. Of increasing attention are other works of his that were carved into stone, mostly found at Pamir Culture Park on Five Finger Mountain (Wuzhishan) in the suburbs of Taipei. In addition, Yu Youren did title plaques for a number of organizations, ranging public and private organizations to temples, clinics, and even shops. This type of application found in his calligraphy was known in ancient times as inscribed writing and also as post or board calligraphy, and it is still commonly seen on the streets of Taipei today. Devoting his life to serving the people in government office, Yu Youren’s fervent study of calligraphy is immediately apparent, for his works continue to be admired for their simple yet direct beauty.
To pick and choose representative examples of Yu Youren’s calligraphy from among the voluminous works still extant is no easy task. Consequently, some of the finest have been selected that were on display at a commemorative exhibition on Yu Youren’s calligraphy held in 2006 at the National Museum of History in Taipei. To these are added examples of calligraphy engraved on rocks still found at Pamir Culture Park along with examples of his title plaques mostly from Taipei. Although the collection of the latter may appear random, those best reflecting the beauty of Yu Youren’s calligraphy were given top priority. Therefore, in addition to works in traditional formats are those carved into wood or stone as well as an example using a more design and materials. All of these preserve the original ink traces of Yu Youren’s brush in one form or another.
However, it is not enough to merely appreciate a small group of works in order to understand Yu Youren’s achievements in calligraphy, even though it may be one of the most convenient and expedient means of doing so. It can only be hoped that the easy-to-read explanations that accompany the illustrations here will help viewers to enter, explore, and understand Yu Youren’s world of calligraphy and come away with a greater appreciation of the rich and emotional life of the man and his art of writing.