Write a summary of the Three Perfections in English (about 1,000 words). Please attach the plagiarism check. Thanks.

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Write a summary of the Three Perfections in English (about 1,000 words).

Please attach the plagiarism check. Thanks.

Write a summary of the Three Perfections in English (about 1,000 words). Please attach the plagiarism check. Thanks.
THIS IS THE SIXTH OF THE WALTER NEURATH MEMORIAL LECTURES WHICH ARE GIVEN ANNUALLY EACH SPRING ON SUBJECTS REFLECTING THE INTERESTS OF THE FOUNDER OF THAMES AND HUDSON THE DIRECTORS WISH TO EXPRESS PARTICULAR GRATITUDE TO THE GOVERNORS AND MASTER OF BIRKBECK COLLEGE UNIVERSITY OF LONDON FOR THEIR GRACIOUS SPONSORSHIP OF THESE LECTURES THE THREE PERFECTIONS CHINESE PAINTING POETRY AND CALLIGRAPHY MICHAEL SULLIVAN /i THAMES AND HUDSON LONDON © Michael Sullivan 1974 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers Printed in Great Britain by Jarrold and Sons Ltd, Norwich o 500 55006 9 Walter Neurath, on the only occasion we met, showed an eagerness to explore new ways of extending our knowledge and understanding of Chinese art and civilization that was positively exhilarating. He was particularly interested in an idea for a book on the effects of the confrontation of Eastern and Western art that later bore fruit, although too late, unfortunately, for the man to whom it would have appealed most. The idea behind this book is not so ambitious. It is to answer one of those questions which every lover of Chinese art asks sooner or later and which is seldom answered, but must be answered if we are to begin to understand the aims and preoccupations of the Chinese painter. The question is, quite simply: what, and why, do the Chinese write on their paintings? I think it would have intrigued Walter Neurath. Fragmentary as my answer is, humbly bowing, as the Chinese say, I offer it to his spirit. SOME TIME IN THE MIDDLE of the eighth century the Chinese poet, painter and calligrapher Cheng Ch’ien (died 764), drinking compan/ ion of Tu Fu and Li Po, presented to the emperor in Ch’ang/an a gift of his work. The delighted monarch took up the imperial brush and inscribed on it – perhaps it was a handscroll; the historians do not tell us – the words Cheng Ch’ien san chueh, Cheng Ch’ien’s Three Perfections, or Three Incomparables.’ For over a thousand years, the three arts of painting, poetry and calligraphy have been intimately connected in the minds of cultivated Chinese, and that is the relation/ ship I will be exploring in this book. Everyone knows that Chinese paintings have writing on them. Who did the writing? Was it the painter, or someone else, and if so, who? What does it say? Why do some paintings have a lot of writing on them, others little or none? Did the painter deliberately leave room for it? Doesn’t it spoil the picture, and if not, why not; Do we need to know what it says to understand or enjoy the painting? These are all obvious and important questions, often asked, but seldom answered. But first of all: where does it go? Clearly in a blank space; generally in the upper part of the picture, in the sky, as it were. But is this area actually the sky? In the little album painting by the fourteenth/century master Wu Chen (i), there are no clouds, no indication of water. If this area is indeed to be ‘read’ as sky or water, it would be outrageous to fill it with writing — in this case the words of a fisherman’s song. Clearly then, that part of Wu Chen’s album leaf is not just sky or water. In a Chinese painting space is simply — space, the matrix out of which forms emerge, the medium in which they are related, like the water in the goldfish bowl in which the fishes swim about. As space, it can be as readily occupied by a poem as by a rock or a pine tree. Indeed, as we shall see, the poem is as much a part of the total work of art as any object that the painter puts in, and has as much claim to the picture space. i !>FM Chen (1280-134$): The Idle Fisherman. Album-leaf mounted as a handscroll; ink on paper. 7>- um i p| I <*!***£ ‘*w 1 •4 1 * * «. g / j5a * »’ • « 2, j (Left), Cheng Hsieh (i 693-1765): Orchids and Rocks. Ranging scroll, dated 1761, ink on paper. (Right), Chin Nung (1687-1764): Plum-blossom. Hanging scroll, 1761; ink on paper. Although the painter seldom deliberately leaves a space for his inscription, he has an unerring sense of where it should go, and it often completes the design in a very satisfactory way. It need not occupy a corner. The individualists and eccentrics of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would write anywhere, even on the rock faces as in this brilliant work(2) by Cheng Hsieh (1693-1765). The wonderful visual harmony of such a painting stems partly from the fact that the artist is using for his writing and his painting the same brush and ink, virtually the same technique, the same fluent rhythmic touch. All this we can enjoy whether or not we can read Cheng Hsieh’s inscriptions in praise of the orchid. In this picture (3) another eighteenth/century individualist, Chin Nung, deliberately forms the heavy square script of his poem about the plum/blossom as if it were a rubbing from a stone inscription of the Han Dynasty (202 BC-AD 220), and then mischievously wraps the plum blossom around it, thus creating an imbalance, almost a conflict, between the heaviness of the writing and the delicacy of the painting that is rather daring, and which a true scholar would have considered slightly vulgar. However, Chin Nung was not a scholar but what one might call a ‘professional eccentric’, whose livelihood depended upon his being able to administer a succession of such pleasurable little visual shocks to his rich patrons in Yangchow, and to keep them entertained by his brilliance and originality. The simplest inscription consists of the artist’s name, followed by his personal seal or seals. To this he may add the date (4), perhaps the name of the man for whom he painted the picture, a note on the occasion and on the style he chose. Beyond this, the inscription may carry us deep into the realms of philosophy and metaphysics, art history and art criticism, and may tell us more about the private life of the painter, and his relationship with his friends and patrons, than can be derived from any other source. An inscription of this kind may turn an otherwise conventional painting into a very human document. The idea that writing and painting belong together is a very ancient one in China. ‘Writing and painting’, said a Chinese art historian of the ninth century, ‘have different names but a common body.’2 And 10 ii s. 12 Cheng’ming (1470-1559): Landscape. Fan painting, dated 1552; ink onpaper. this author begins the first chapter of his Li’tai ming’hua chi (Record of Famous Painters of Successive Dynasties), the first history of art ever written, by telling how in far/off times fabulous beasts emerged out of the waters of the Yellow River and the Lo River bearing on their backs the Tortoise Characters and the Dragon Chart. No one knows what these were, but the legend points to the divine origin of writing and painting in Chinese eyes. The author then plunges straight into a discussion of the earliest pictographic writing; and at no time since then has the intimate, and as it were divinely sanctioned, union between the two arts been less than taken for granted in China. I shall take it for granted too, for otherwise we shall find ourselves lost in a thicket of pictographs and ideographs. My concern is rather with how writing and painting, as fully developed art forms, are connected in the total work of art. These arts did not always bear the same formal relationship to each other that they do in the paintings of recent centuries. A seventeenth’ century master, politely hesitating to inscribe on a painting by a great contemporary, wrote: ‘In ancient times no writing was done on the 14 5 (Opposite), Ku K’ai’chih (c. •j40~to6): Admonitions of the Court Instructress; detail illustrating the passage, ‘If the words that you utter are good, all men for a thousand li around will respond; but if you depart from this principle, even your bed’ fellow will distrust you.’ Handscroll; ink and colour on silk. Possibly a Tang Dynasty copy. 6 Panel of a painted wooden screen, from a tomb dated 484 at Ta’t’ung, Shansi Province. Artist unknown. pictures but only on sheets attached to them, so why should I stain with my writing a picture by the Ch’an monk Shih/ch’i;’3 We cannot be sure what he meant by ‘ancient times’. Two thousand years ago, in the Han Dynasty, the painting was generally a portrait, or an illustration to a story, a descriptive poem, or a classical or didactic text. All these scrolls and wall/paintings are lost and the oldest examples that survive today are not earlier than the fifth century A D. In the famous scroll Admonitions of the Court Instructress in the British Museum, believed to be a T’ang Dynasty copy of an original by Ku K’ai/chih (c. 340-406), each of the ‘Admonitions’ to the court ladies runs down beside its illustration, like a caption ($). On a painted wooden screen recently found in a tomb dated 484 at Taxt’ung in Shansi (6), the text of the stories of the filial Shun, of the wives of the first emperor of the Chou Dynasty (c. 1030-256 B c), and of the virtuous Lady Pan who refused to go out with her emperor in his palanquin lest she distract him from affairs of state, is set rather crudely in a box – here actually pasted on the screen.4 On a famous eighth/century scroll of the Life of Buddha, which exists in a number of I p 7 Anon.: Illustration to the Ingakyo (Sutra of Cause and Effect). Detail of a handscroll; ink and colour on silk. Eighth’century Japanese copy of a Chinese T’ang Dynasty original. 16 early Japanese copies, a continuous illustration runs along above the text (j). In all these early cases – the labels giving names of officials in tomb wall’paintings would be another example – the text appears beside or below the picture, but there is no kind of aesthetic or formal relationship between them. Just when painters began to integrate the inscription with the picture in an artistic whole we cannot be sure. When the great T’ang poet/ painter Wang Wei (699-759) painted a panorama of his country estate, Wang/ch’uan, it is not at all improbable that he copied out on the scroll, at appropriate points, the twenty poems about its beauty/ spots which he had composed; but we do not know for certain (hat he did so. The poems are vividly pictorial: We play our flutes as we cross to the far shore And the sun is setting as I see off my friends. Turn and look back over the lake – White clouds curl on the blue hills.5 Did the painting inspire the poem, or the poem the painting – as both were inspired by the scenery of the riverside estate itself? We shall never know; all we do know is that from the T’ang Dynasty onwards this kind of mutual interaction between painting and poems became increasingly common, till in the eighteenth century the critic Shen Tsung/ch’ien could write: ‘Both poetry and painting are scholars’ occupations which help to express human moods and feelings. There/ fore what can be a subject of poetry can also be a subject of painting, and what is vulgar in painting is like bad verse.” It became increasingly common too for the arts of painting and calligraphy to be judged by the same critical standards. In the hands of a gentleman, the twin arts were an expression of the highest levels of scholarship, sensibility and taste (8). A thirteenth/century critic wrote of the great calligrapher Wang Hsien/chih (303-379) and the scholar/ painter Mi Fu (1050-1107), ‘being good calligraphers they were inevitably able painters, being good painters they were inevitably able calligraphers: calligraphy and painting are essentially the same thing.’7 As a Sung poet summed it up: I i i IF 3)15-* ;j% t. f*SJ , /,-‘”* * ,’ . 1 ‘ ^'”/-‘ ;: tif- 1 ^ -” ^:- : ”’ ,: :, ^-‘^ j- If ll ^M^ tll v:7{ti*Ai ^ <^ ^-;-«ri.:” i jT -2 ^* /( 14 ^ W I? ^ ‘T ^ • ->«v«a»«- •••# f ~~£~t Ku An (active c. 1333-73) ‘• Bamboo. AlbumAeaf; ink on paper. /;i<. ^m ‘fSJ •f 2 ^ ^m Sketching bamboo is like writing draft script, One worries about vulgarity, not about originality. Painting plunvblossom is like judging horses, It is done by bone/structure, not by appearance.8 Indeed, when the sixth/century critic Hsieh Ho set down the famous ‘Six Principles’ of painting, which have since become the cornerstone of Chinese aesthetic theory, the first two that he enumerated, which may be roughly translated ‘rhythmic vitality’ and ‘bone/structure’, were essentially those that had been laid down, centuries earlier, for calligraphy.9 Chinese connoisseurs distinguish several kinds of inscription: those written by the painter himself, ‘friends’ inscriptions’, and comments written by later collectors or connoisseurs. ‘Friends’ inscriptions’ generally say complimentary things about the artist, perhaps comment on the style and include a poem, and may tell how the writer came to see the painting, who was there, what they talked about. The value of such inscriptions of course depends very much upon who wrote them. Needless to say, no one would, or should, dare to write on a painting unless his handwriting were accomplished, and the sentiments, however conventional, were elegantly expressed. For as an old Chinese saying has it, ‘If you fall into the water you may still be saved; but having fallen down on literary matters there is no life left for you.’10 If the inscription was written by a great critic and connoisseur such as the Ming Dynasty scholar Tung Ch’i/ch’ang (1555-1636), if he said for instance of a painting of epidendrum by his friend Ting Yiin/p’eng that he really captured the spirit of Mi Yu^jen’s ‘ink play’ (g), this carried enormous weight and added considerably to the value of the painting. It is hard to conceive of a Western parallel — of a note written by Berenson in the corner of a Botticelli tondo being thought to add much to its value. We can only understand this Chinese attitude if we can see the picture as the Chinese do, not as a complete artistic statement in itself, but as a living body, an accretion of qualities, imaginative, literary, historical, personal, that grows with time, putting on an ever/ richer dress of meaning, commentary and association with the years. 20 Among many kinds of inscription written by someone other than the painter himself, imperial inscriptions are in a class by themselves. Many emperors were collectors: it was almost an expression of the imperial role to skim off the cream of surviving masterpieces in private collections and gather them into the palace, where they were seen by very few. Not many emperors were discerning collectors, but they nevertheless liked to leave their mark on the artistic legacy. Among the most notorious was the Ch’ien/lung Emperor (1736-1796), a man of great energy and intelligence but without aesthetic discernment, who amassed a vast collection, and wrote – or had palace hacks write for him – literally thousands of uninteresting inscriptions and conventional poems on his paintings.” On one version of a great landscape handscroll in the Palace Museum Collection in Taiwan, Huang Kung^wang’s Dwelling in the Fu’ctiun Mountains (1347—1350), Ch’ien’lung penned no less than fifty–three inscriptions before he could bring himself to write ‘henceforth when this scroll is brought out for my inspection, no more will I inscribe it.’12 Indeed, there was no more room. Fortunately the version he wrote all over is generally regarded as a copy; the original bears but one inscription of this period, written on imperial order by the scholar official Liang Shih/cheng (1697-1763) to the effect that it is not genuine, but still worth preserving in the imperial collection. Much more discriminating was the Northern Sung Emperor Hui/tsung (1101-1125) who is believed to have been a competent if somewhat academic painter himself- ‘believed’, because it cannot be assumed that the pictures that bear his inscriptions were necessarily painted by himself. He liked to set painting competitions to members of the Imperial Academy, selecting perhaps a line of verse or a couplet, and then add his cypher to those he approved of. In special cases he would write a poem in his own refined and inimitable hand, as on the small Birds in the Branches of a Wax’plum (10) in the Palace Museum Collection, Taiwan. An inscription in the lower right corner, in what appears to be Hui’tsung’s calligraphy, says that it was painted by himself. There is always an element of uncertainty about the paintings that bear his handwriting, but in this case both painting and writing could well be from the same imperial hand. 22 i o The Emperor Sung Hui’tsung (reigned 1101-1125): Birds in the Branches of a , with a poem and inscription by Hui’tsung. Hanging scroll; ink and colour on silk. 4 X- IP vM A # * f -‘Vf ,«.**’ %$*l _J ‘ ! ^ – 24 11 Ma Yuan (fl. 1180-1 220): On a Mountain Path in Spring, with a couplet by Yang Mei’tzu. AllumAeaf; ink and light colour on silk. 2 2 L/ SH«J (ft. 1190-1220): The Hangchow Bore by Moonlight, with a couplet by Yang Mei’tzu. Album’leaf; ink and light colour on silk. The beautiful painting of a scholar strolling under a willow tree, On a Mountain Path in Spring (i i), was painted by the Southern Sung academician Ma Yuan (active about 1180-1220). The inscription in the upper right corner reads: Brushed by his sleeves, wild flowers dance in the wind; Fleeing from him, the hidden birds cut short their song.13 When this painting was discussed at a conference in the United States a few years ago some local experts suggested that it could not possibly be a genuine Sung Dynasty painting: it seems too artificial; the scholar seems to be gazing not at the birds or the flowers but at the inscription itself. They attributed it to a brilliant pasticheur of the Ming Dynasty. 13 Ma Lin (fl. 1220-50): Fragrant Spring; Clearing after Rain, with title written by Yang Mei’tzu. Album’leaf; ink and light colour on silk. However, there is no question that the handwriting is that of the consort of the Emperor Ning/tsung (1195-1224), a lady known as Yang Mei/tzu, who was herself a painter, poet and calligrapher, and a patron of the leading academicians of the day, for her elegant calli’ graphy has been identified on a number of their works.” So the rapt, gratified, even slightly awestruck gaze of the scholar upon the imperial inscription is in fact entirely appropriate: indeed, it would have been lacking in respect if he were shown looking in any other direction.15 Perhaps these pictures were winners in court painting competitions, on which the Lady Yang graciously penned the theme. We shall never know. We do know that she sometimes did this at the request of the emperor, and that the ensemble seems to point to an easy intimacy in 26 28 14 Kung Hsien (c. 1618-89): A Thousand Peaks < scroll; ink on paper. ‘ Myriad Ravines. Hanging 29 M jfeJJ-.v^. 80, * : .»Vf?A …: artistic matters between the imperial household and the academicians that was rare in the history of Chinese art, and says much about the civilized – even over/civilized – atmosphere of the Southern Sung court. While the imperial inscriptions are usually slightly artificial, yet even they illustrate – in rather formal fashion – how, uniquely in Far Eastern painting, ideas and feelings flow back and forth between the words and the picture, a relationship that the scholars in their painting explored with far greater subtlety and depth than did the court painters. A Sung poet wrote of two eighth/century masters: The writings of Shao Ling [the poet Tu Fu] are paintings without forms; The paintings of Han Kan are poems without words.16 And in a celebrated couplet Su Tung/p’o apostrophized the dual genius of Wang Wei (Wang Mo/chieh): When one savours Mo/chieh’s poems, there are paintings in them; When one looks at Mo/chieh’s pictures, there are poems.17 Painting was often called ‘silent poetry’, wu sheng shih, and thought of as a way of release of feelings that need not, or sometimes could not, be put into words. Huang T’ing/chien, a great eleventh/century calli/ grapher, wrote of a contemporary, the painter Li Kung/lin: Duke Li has verses which he doesn’t want to throw out, So with light ink he ‘writes’ them down as silent poetry.18 Perhaps the Sung writer means that Li Kung/lin, not known as a poet, found it easier to express himself in painting. But there were also times when a painter/poet dared not express himself in words – times of trouble, of foreign occupation, of the oppression of the intellectuals, when every word written was scrutinized by censors or eunuchs for the treasonable double meaning. At such times any form of protest was an act of courage. After the Manchu conquest of 1644 Kung Hsien, an ardent Ming patriot, expressed his horror at the conquest of his country in a series of desolate, untenanted landscapes which needed no words to make their meaning clear (i 4). But one or two poems he wrote at this 30 Hf ^ a^ ^:.’-s- * « 15 Cheng Sstfhsiaa (fl. i 250-1300): Epidendrum. Album’leaf; ink on paper. time suggest that he deliberately chose this form of symbolic protest against the Occupation. Three hundred years earlier the Sung patriot Cheng Ssu/hsiao (active about 1250-1300) had symbolized his feelings about the rape of the Chinese soil by the Mongols in exquisite paintings of unrooted orchids – surely one of the most oblique expressions of political protest ever recorded. His inscription on this lovely painting in the Osaka Municipal Museum (15) gives practically nothing away. It merely says: I have been asking Hsi/huang [the ancient hermit] with my head bowed: Who were you – and why did you come to this land>. I opened my nostrils before making the painting, And there, floating everywhere in the sky, is the antique fragrance undying19 – and leaves it to Cheng SsU’hsiao’s friends to read his message between the lines, and in the painting itself. 31 <-p 1 I te <+ 4 I 11 i # f *” *B £ ft f ^ li a “-‘•• 7-^ •»» tftwiR, a*tnifft%r *?. .-% * a ^ 4 Jfc » * M t » $ ^ ft ^ IP i * ifSi <5 ^ 41 /?- « « *’ % J(^ C/wo Meng’ju (1254-1322): Sheep and Goat. Handscroll; ink on paper. When we look at such exquisitely tranquil pictures, it is hard to think in terms of politics, of treason, resistance, conflicts of loyalty. Yet the scholars were extremely vulnerable, caught between their duty to their emperor and the dictates of conscience. Dangerous thoughts were often so heavily disguised in painting or poem that only one’s closest friends would understand what lay behind it. There were even times when it seems that the painter’s meaning could not get through at all, and it was left to others to express what he dared not say. I shall give just one instance of this, but it is a particularly poignant one. The great Yuan Dynasty scholar, calligrapher and painter Chao Meng/fu (1254-1322) resisted for ten years the enticements and pressure put on him by the Mongols to enter government service. At the end he gave in, and rose to high office under Kublai Khan. While his enormous influence undoubtedly helped to soften the effects of the Mongol occupation, he never ceased to feel ashamed of his surrender, and some of his friends never forgave him for collaborating. Some time about the year 1395, Chao Meng/fu painted this picture of a sheep and goat, now in the Freer Gallery, Washington (16). One 32 I M* 1 1 1 Ssl ‘^ £&• ^)( K. * % A fft ^t 4: as 17 C/!«() Meng’fu’s inscription: detail from plate 16. ”.”•>:• • looks for a clue to its meaning in the artist’s inscription on the left. But all Chao Meng’fu says is this (ij)’. I have painted horses but have not tried sheep (or goats). Since Chung/hsin asked me for a painting I have playfully painted these from life. Although the painting cannot approach those of the ancient masters, it seems to have somewhat captured their spirit consonance.20 This is not very helpful, and we do not know who Chung<-hsin was. Is it after all, then, just a picture of a sheep and goat, and did Chao Meng/fu really draw them from life, just for fun, as he says? If there is more to it than that, why does he not at least hint at it in the inscription’. 33 The answer may be that he did not dare to; for any direct allusion to his own feelings as a Chinese in the service of the occupying power might have been interpreted as treason. So he left it at that, hoping that those who saw the picture would get the point. But what was the point? Some years later, after the Ming Dynasty had driven out the Mongols and restored China’s independence, a group of seven early fifteenth/ century scholars added colophons to the scroll. All of them refer to a general of the Han Dynasty, Su Wu (i 39-after 60 B c), who had been taken prisoner by the Hsiung/nu on the north/west frontier and was their slave and herdsman for nineteen years before he was set free. One of the seven scholars wrote: I only regret that with his great brush for painting he didn’t paint the likeness of Su Wu upholding the spirit of loyalty by herding sheep in the regions of Ch’ing’hai.21 Another critic added that these early commentators had still missed part of the meaning: that the painting also refers to a popular saying about ‘grieving over the lost sheep’ – meaning that Chao Meng/fu, like the sheep he paints, has lost his way in selling his services to the Mongols.22 So what was, on the face of it, a picture of two animals done in jest for a friend, was in fact a silent cry of despair. It was left to a later generation of sympathizers to come forward, take up their brushes on Chao Meng/fu’s behalf, and put into words what he could not bring himself to say. Such occasions when the painter was unable to speak are fascinating but rare. Generally he is only too ready to tell us what prompted him to paint the picture. Here for instance is Wang Yiian/ch’i (1642-1715), painter, scholar and adviser on artistic matters to the Emperor K’ang/hsi (1662-1722), on a landscape (18) he painted on an autumn day in the year 1696: By a dim light and during heavy rain I painted this in the style of Wang Meng [died 1385] to counteract a mood of depression.23 And the great Sung poet Su Tung/p’o (1037-1101): Originally I did just the tree, but some exhilaration was left over, so I did the bamboo and stone on another piece of paper.24 34 18 Wang Yiiait’ch’t (1642- 1715): Landscape (detail). Hanging scroll, dated 16cj6; ink on paper. Kung Hsien states in his inscription on a magnificent landscape, now in Honolulu (20), that one must paint in accordance with the principles of the Sung and Yuan masters. He gives the names of artists who had inspired him, Tung Yuan and Chilean (both tenth century), Ni Tsan (1301-1374) and Huang Kung/wang (1269-1354), who had been the models for Wen Cheng/ming (1470-1559) and Shen Chou (1427-1509), and he ends with the bald statement: After finishing this picture, I hereby announce the aim of my brushy work. 35 , /!>* i 7…. ^- i ^. f. l-li . i- , ; «;.• M /f /fcf, x?1 – ‘%h> i» ,• • •«;• ^ # s; -t’t & 4 , r’* ,- J^ . :!%. f > * 1 i €fc> /^= I – J :,?. :1 –5 1%s 1 » m •f’ , «rfj 2^ 20 (Opposite), KungHsien (c. 1618-89): Mountains in Mist. Hanging scroll, dated i68g; ink and slight colour on silk. (Above), Kung Hsien’s inscription: detail from plate 20. Why does Kung Hsien feel he has to tell the viewer something which, if he is a gentleman and a connoisseur, he will know without being told? If the inscription is not simply a conventional expression of ortho’ dox ideas, it must be seen as a means of underlining the subtle relation’ ship that exists between the viewer, the painter, and the models that inspired him – three widely separate moments in time brought together in a work of art that transcends time, and bears eternal witness to the Chinese painter’s duty to uphold the tradition at the same time as he renews and transforms it. A certain modesty is becoming, however. Wang Yuan/-ch’i in a typical inscription plays down his own skill. ‘I once saw a picture by Wang Shirvmin based on one by Tung Ch’i/ch’ang,’ he wrote on a painting in the Freer Gallery, Washington. ‘I took this as a model for this picture. But my brushwork and handling of ink is completely disordered. I write this because I am ashamed of it.’25 36 I Hi! ^MPIiha»*&;^ *v&; ^|!:i!ii%::: ^SiUl:: lr=! ‘fe “*r:a;x ^i* ;e:r;B»”!:>:” >,-y-“VfL’i :• 4L:,|;ftl«^.-:-,||| ;tf gff- ::;: -;;*|J; € Detail of the inscription on the scroll . ! * ,,• 1 X ~*H,:V” m- *t • • 4: «••”” f il.l.f 22 Tung Ch’i-ch’ang (1555-1636): Mountains and Rivers in Autumn after the Rain, in the manner of Huang Kung-‘wang. Handscroll; ink on paper. The great painter^critic Tung Ch’i/ch’ang, however, writes on one of his own landscapes after Tung Yuan, in the Morse Collection, that it resembles the original rather well; and of his scroll after Huang Kungx wang’s Mountains and Rivers in Autumn after the Rain (21), ‘it is a pity the ancients cannot see my version’26 -the implication of course being that his is just as good. Such arrogance, though typical of this painter, is uncommon. A scholar/painter would be more likely to say that his efforts are clumsy, that he cannot hope to equal the old masters, or even that he isn’t really a painter at all and just did it as a joke. Even if everyone knows that he doesn’t mean a word of it, it is good manners and sounds well. The great seventeenth/century individualist Shilvt’ao (1641-1:. 1710) makes no pretended apologies in the boisterous inscription he wrote on his Drunk in Autumn Woods (23), a celebration of a sort of rural pub/ crawl with a friend: 39 «!««***#«*! ^:S-»:vS2!«ri?f*|f ^”^ * Illllll’illill w;^f|||fl£ j’-j- a–; ,.-w -xg– 4t I >’ ••*; || pi ||| ‘& 1PIJ.JT 13 ^r** If ‘ ‘tT.-‘ * •*” ! i:» ?5 -* ‘” -“• ”.i. ‘i* ,* * ‘f ‘£ 1$ it!. * ••• i J -_,;<;: $£• 1 IJI ^ *•-*•$. ‘I , ‘: f- If < J fi , ‘ :;* *(..»• ,- . M& & f iPf i**:*fl ,,^»^ • ^i’ ‘ ‘-‘f’ «r» ,itfli!l» i«iyk,it:;rt -A’1 ‘V:1 ,3».,wr^,-, 4,1 /; * 1710): Drunk in Autumn : ]ir’ Woods. Hanging scroll; ink “;•;’ j I j ««(! colour on paper. •i-fl It :.:,- SI H a*ife” r” ‘ ^”^ ^ “””*» i-^i:, W^^^HS^^Mml ! si Last year, with Su I/men and Hsiao Cheng, I again passed through Pao’ch’eng and there was a whole row of red/leaved trees. We got very drunk and returned home. In jest I composed this poem, but I did not yet paint the picture. This year I paid a visit to Mr Sung’kao and looked at the scroll of bamboo and rocks that I once painted for him. He said: ‘I wish you would use ten thousand dots of vermilion and rouge to sketch a free painting of the subject Drunk in Autumn Woods….’ After returning home I became very mad and, in jest, painted this and inscribed it: ‘In the waste land, among white clouds and red trees; whoever must go has gone, and whoever must return has returned. Yesterday I went into the plains and let my eyes wander. . . . Man, grass, and trees all became drunk together; now the west wind has blown over and we try to wake. Even the very refined does not know what is right; as old age comes, my nature gets more and mere used to the search for madness. ‘In olden times Huxt’ou (Ku K’aixchih) had three incomparable attainments; now I have three kinds of madness: I am mad, my words are mad, my painting is mad. How can one achieve true madness? Now I shall present this piece of madness to my venerable elder, Mr Sung; then I shall have achieved true madness.’ He ends, ‘This is only to provoke a laugh .. .’ and signs it. Next day he added another quatrain: In a moment, smoke and clouds can return to their previous form: The whole sky is full of red trees spreading fire all over heaven. I invite you to get drunk with my black brush strokes; To lie and watch the frosted forest where the falling leaves spin.27 Much of the scholarly painter’s energy was spent, however, not on such surges of drunken creativity, but on fulfilling the infinite number of obligations, delightful or tiresome, which the gentry laid on each other. He devoted much of his time to painting for friends, and for friends of friends, and the tone of his inscription tells us a good deal about the relationship. Here, for instance, is Shih/t’ao again (24), clearly fulfilling a duty which he could not avoid: Jk V. iff *i It, r*; » i. •*• *•- -i!i •;:, -t’i 5- »•• ‘if It I !; S*3- J * !» 1 i ii I ^ • ^j * ^ ft | •? * r.&….*- ^ -*, – * * When Mr Tz’»tu (Fei Mi) was alive he asked me to do an ancestral tomb painting, indeed a filial son’s concern. But I didn’t know anything about the tomb so he gave me a description of it which I followed with brush and ink. Three months or so later I heard of his death. His son, bowing down, brought the painting back to me and asked me to complete it to satisfy his father’s will. So, blowing on cold fingers, I did this. May his spirit accept it.28 Compare this, courteous and dignified as it is, with the great Ming Dynasty master Shen Chou writing on a painting that he did for his teacher and beloved ‘elder brother’ Liu Chiieh (25): Whenever Liu Chiieh sees me he asks me to paint, not minding that I am a poor painter, nor whether I am drunk or sober, busy or idle. Nor does it make any difference to him whether the weather is wet or stormy, cold or warm; even in the poor lamplight he urges me to paint. This picture was done last night when I was drunk. It is quite topsy/turvy and full of mistakes, but he wanted it.29 The relationship between author and patron was a delicate one, and the painter could generally manage to pay his debt in painting for favours received without compromising his dignity as a gentleman or his status as an amateur. But what are we to think of this fawning 42 24 Shih’t’ao (1641—c. 171 o): The Ancestral Tomb of the Fei Family (detail). Handscroll, dated i jo2; ink and slight colour on paper. ‘ ‘* /• JK> f*- «| j .$£ f I »” fflW*1 j i l^ril’l <*• ^Hf mfifsiii i* 25 Shen Chou i$o<)): Landscape for Liu Chiieh. Hanging scroll; ink on paper. ,,r- inscription, written by Kung Hsien in 1669 as part of the dedication of a collective album presented by a group of Nanking painters to their powerful patron Chou Liang’kung (1612-1672): The poet Mr Chou Li/yuan (Liang/kung) has a passion for paint/ ings. … In the upper storey of his Belvedere, in 10,000 scrolls and 1,000 boxes antiquities are assembled to be discussed. Whoever, anywhere in the country, is famous for his painting has heard of your influence, Sir, and (comes fast) like shooting star or lightning, afraid only to arrive late. How much more so when you, Sir, summon in writing and welcome with money >30 Such flattery one can hardly imagine impressed the great Chou Liang/kung; but Kung Hsien, who seems to have spent years in hiding from real or imaginary enemies, may well have felt a desperate need for Chou Liang/kung’s protection. But we do not know the exact circumstances here – Kung Hsien’s life is full of shadows – and this is no more than a guess. • ; im M ™cl^-!!®&.°^aj&simif^ .. . … ,,. -Mr •I m t’iit °%i’ft%’life ••~5%^::illlliiL JiiKi:: jstjifc:,,:,. I ‘ ™* “‘;»»!!;*;SSBi 990-1030): Travelling amid Mountains and Streams. Hanging scroll; ink and slight colour on silk. (Left), Fan Kuan’s hidden signature (in the foliage, lower right of plate 27). ::ii;e, |; •’ H v> %.:/« rill v:u: ::i ^»^y^I r’l|^ S ‘ I I m The style of the literati of recent centuries, as reflected in the landscapes illustrated here, is often so abstraa and conventionalized that without the painter’s inscription we would find it difficult to guess just what his intentions were. But this was not always the case. For the great early classic masters of landscape painting the written word was quite superfluous, for their aims were very different. In his monumental Travelling Amid Mountains and Streams (27), painted about 1000-1030, the early Sung master Fan K’uan is not borrowing or reinterpreting the style of some earlier master as a vehicle for his feelings, or a display of art/historical scholarship. He is painting a landscape, derived from his own knowledge of nature, of such compelling realism that we are drawn into it, to experience almost the same sort of feelings that we would have if we were to wander in the mountains ourselves. And when an unknown eleventh/century master wanted to convey what it was like to travel up river in the depth of winter (28), he could say what he felt directly in the language of painting.31 We shall find no artist’s inscriptions on these paintings; even the signature is hidden, if it has been added at all. Everything that can be said is there, in the picture itself. A poem, still more a note on the painter’s intention or choice of style, would only come between the painting and the viewer and destroy its impact. But after the twelfth century, the scholars left pictorial realism more and more to the professional and craftsmen painters, while their own art became increasingly abstract and conventionalized, a vehicle to express ideas rather than to record visual experience. Then the in/ scription inevitably became an important – even an essential – part of the total work of art. Shilvt’ao acknowledges this in the piece he wrote on an album of landscapes now in the Osaka Municipal Museum: This album lay on my table for a year with blank leaves. One day, when a snowstorm was blowing, I made use of Su Tung/p’o’s writing on the seasons, but I am ashamed that I have not been able to render the marvel of his poems. In order to make the paintings more interesting, I have copied the poems. When you chant the rhymes, the spirit of life in the pictures will come out quite naturally.32 ffc % t i I i ;i,, i I ..'” 1 i % A ^ •’*• jif •£ 4- 4^ ‘A f”» f^, & if.. 11» j – • -b. * ^1 3’1 J- =;b4 ;„.- . ;.. ..,,£:-.• ~., > : . ” !. V-*’ – .. ..,…,.,, .^… s,w,, ” jiS1! ^^fa^M’f.-“‘- .. r.;;”‘L.-;l

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