The noted Chinese art collector and connoisseur John B Eliot (Princeton 1951) began his collection of Chinese calligraphy in 1967 with the purchase of two scrolls, one of them (detail above) by the master Sung poet and calligrapher Hwang Ting-jyen. Hwang's nephew, who had visited him in his Szchwan exile, was returning home, and had asked his uncle for a specimen of calligraphy. Hwang responded by copying out a famous piece of prose by the Tang poet Han Yw. To this copy, which has long ago been lost, Hwang appended his own note describing the occasion, itself a scroll of some length. It is this scroll that Mr Eliot acquired in 1960. The portion shown above is from near the beginning; it reads:
"[In the third year of the Ywaen-fu period, first month, cyclical day ding/you, my nephew Jang Da-tung of Yajou was preparing for his return, and came to ask for a piece of calligraphy. I have been having [stomach and chest pains, but today, having some leisure time, I tried my brush by writing out this essay. Da-tung is fond of old-style prose, so I chose this selection. . . .]"
Hwang, then at the height of his powers, takes his illness seriously, and end his colophon by wondering "if I will ever again be able to write such characters as these."
Near the end of his own life in 1997, Mr Eliot came to know of the Project's work, which was then concentrated on completing the study published the following year as The Original Analects. He wished to make provision for the Project's support, but died before incorporating that wish in his will. His executors, the Mercer Trust, have honored his unrealized intention by making a substantial but unannounced gift to the Project. We hope to continue to add, to the scroll of our earlier work, new scholarly contributions which will properly honor the insight and the confidence of a great heart and a generous man.