EARLY CHINESE PAINTING
Don Yuan's Riverbank
According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “It was from the Six Dynasties (222-589) to the Tang dynasty (618-907) that the foundations of figure painting were gradually established by such major artists as Gu Kaizhi (A.D. 345-406) and Wu Daozi (680-740). Modes of landscape painting then took shape in the Five Dynasties period (907-960) with variations based on geographic distinctions. For example Jing Hao (c. 855-915) and Guan Tong (c. 906-960) depicted the drier and monumental peaks to the north while Dong Yuan (?–962) and Juran (10th century) represented the lush and rolling hills to the south in Jiangnan. In bird-and-flower painting, the noble Tang court manner was passed down in Sichuan through the style of Huang Quan (903–965), which contrasts with that of Xu Xi (886-975) in the Jiangnan area. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw]
Landscape painting developed in the 4th and 5th century and became the most popular theme for painters beginning in the 11th century. While early figure painting was influenced by Confucianism, landscape painting found inspiration in Taoist thought. As it developed artists often sought inspiration more from artistic tradition than directly from nature
A painted banner found in the Tomb of the Marquess of Dai, Mawangdui, dated to 160 B.C., is considered the oldest portrait in Chinese history.Madeleine Boucher wrote in the Art Genome Project: “In the early 1970s, archaeologists digging at an ancient grave site in modern-day Hunan province discovered one of the richest treasure-troves of modern history: the tomb of noblewoman Lady Dai, including the perfectly preserved body of the lady herself. The painted silk funeral banner, which lay on the innermost of her nested coffins, contains what is considered to be the earliest portrait in Chinese history. The map-like composition is divided into three spaces: the underworld, the world of the living, and a heaven-like world of the immortals. At center, Lady Dai stands surrounded by family members and attendants, while below relatives give Lady Dai her funeral feast and offer sacrifices to help her soul find the realm of the immortals. This underworld of the tomb, symbolized by giant serpents, is where her body soul (corporeal soul) dwells while her spirit soul ascends to the realm of the immortals above. The insight the banner provides into how the afterlife was structured in early Chinese beliefs makes it as valuable to history as it is beautiful. [Source: Madeleine Boucher, the Art Genome Project, June 24, 2014]
Websites and Sources on Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: China Online Museum chinaonlinemuseum.com ; Painting, University of Washington depts.washington.edu ; Calligraphy, University of Washington depts.washington.edu ; Websites and Sources on Chinese Art: China -Art History Resources art-and-archaeology.com ; Art History Resources on the Web witcombe.sbc.edu ; ;Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) Visual Arts/mclc.osu.edu ; Asian Art.com asianart.com ; China Online Museum chinaonlinemuseum.com ; Qing Art learn.columbia.edu Museums with First Rate Collections of Chinese Art National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw ; Beijing Palace Museum dpm.org.cn ;Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org ; Sackler Museum in Washington asia.si.edu/collections ; Shanghai Museum shanghaimuseum.net; Books: “The Arts of China” by Michael Sullivan (University of California Press, 2000); “Chinese Painting” by James Cahill (Rizzoli 1985); “Possessing the Past: Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taipei” by Wen C. Fong, and James C. Y. Watt (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1996); “Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting” by Richard M. Barnhart, et al. (Yale University Press and Foreign Languages Press, 1997); “Art in China” by Craig Clunas (Oxford University Press, 1997); “Chinese Art” by Mary Tregear (Thames & Hudson: 1997); “How to Read Chinese Paintings” by Maxwell K. Hearn (Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008)
Dong Yuan's "Riverbank" and "Xiao and Xiang Rivers"
Dong Yuan is a legendary 10th-century Chinese painter and a scholar in the court of the Southern Tang Dynasty. He created one of the "foundational styles of Chinese landscape painting." “Along he Riverbank”, a 10th-century silk scroll he painted, is perhaps the rarest and most important early Chinese landscape painting. Over seven feet long, “The Riverbank” is an arrangement of soft contoured mountains, and water rendered in light colors with ink and brushrstokes resembling rope fibers. In addition to establishing a major form of landscape painting, the work also influenced calligraphy in the 13th and 14th century.
Maxwell Heran, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art told the New York Times: "Art-historically, Dong Yuang is like Giotto or Leonardo: there at the start of painting, except the equivalent moment in China was 300 years before.” In 1997, “The Riverbank” and 11 other major Chinese painting were given to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York by C.C. Wang, a 90-year-old painter who escaped from Communist China in the 1950s with painting which he hoped he could trade for his son.
Dong Yuan (c. 934 – c. 964) was born in Zhongling (present-day Jinxian County, Jiangxi Province). He was a master of both figure and landscape painting in the Southern Tang Kingdom of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (907-979). He and his pupil Juran founded the Southern style of landscape painting. So strong was Dong Yuan’s influence that his elegant style and brushwork was still the standard by which Chinese brush painting was judged almost a thousand years after his death. His most famous masterpiece ‘Xiao and Xiang Rivers’ showcases his exquisite techniques and his sense of composition. Many art historians consider “Xiao and Xiang Rivers” to be Dong Yuan’s masterpiece: Other famous works are “Dongtian Mountain Hall” and “Wintry Groves and Layered Banks.” "Riverbank" is ranked so highly by U.S. critic perhaps is because --- as it is owned by Metropolitan Museum of Art --- it is one of the few Chinese masterpieces in the U.S.
“Xiao and Xiang Rivers” (also known as “Scenes along the Xiao and Xiang Rivers”) is an ink on silk hanging scroll, measuring 49.8 x 141.3 centimeters. It is regarded as masterpieces based on its exquisite techniques and his sense of composition. The softened mountain line makes the immobile effect more pronounced while clouds break the background mountains into a central pyramid composition and a secondary pyramid. The inlet breaks the landscape into groups makes the serenity of the foreground more pronounced. Instead of simply being a border to the composition, it is a space of its own, into which the boat on the far right intrudes, even though it is tiny compared to the mountains. Left of center, Dong Yuan uses his unusual brush stroke techniques, later copied in countless paintings, to give a strong sense of foliage to the trees, which contrasts with the rounded waves of stone that make up the mountains themselves. This gives the painting a more distinct middle ground, and makes the mountains have an aura and distance which gives them greater grandeur and personality. He also used "face like" patterns in the mountain on the right. [Source: Wikipedia]
"Nymph of the Luo River" by Gu Kaizhi
"Nymph of the Luo River" by Gu Kaizhi (A.D. 344- 406) of the Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420) is, in the opinion of some, China’s most famous painting. It illustrates a romantic poem by Cao Zhi from the state of Wei during the Three Kingdoms period (A.D. 220-280). The original no longer exists, but there are Song dynasty (960–1279) versions in the Palace Museum, Beijing and Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. [Source: China Online Museum]
“Nymph of the Luo River” is considered a pioneering work of Chinese landscape and figure Chinese painting. Early landscape first appeared as part of figure painting, providing the backdrop for the narrative. “Nymph of the Luo River” depicts the meeting and the eventual separation of Cao Zhi and the Nymph of the Luo River. The work captures the tragedy of the meeting through the composition of the figures, stones, trees and mountains.[Source: Xu Lin, China.org.cn, November 8, 2011]
Gu Kaizhi is regarded as one the founders of Chinese painting. He wrote three books on painting theory which had a profound influence on Chinese painters that followed him. None of his originals survive but his art lives on through copies of a few silk handscroll paintings that are attributed to him. According to China Online Museum: Gu is known for his attention to detail and for capturing vivid expressions of his subjects to reveal their spirits. He has acquired a legendary status in Chinese art and his following line is known by all: “In figure paintings the clothes and the appearances are not very important. The eyes are the spirit and the decisive factor.”“
According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: Legend has it that the Goddess of the Luo River was named Fufei, a daughter of the mythical ruler Fuxi. Falling and drowning in the Luo River, she became immortalized as the epitome of female beauty in "Ode to the Goddess of the Luo River" by the famous Wei poet Cao Zhi (192-232). In a copy of the painting a painter used “pliant yet strong and fluid lines of brushwork with pure and light ink tones to render the Goddess of the Luo River standing gently on clouds with the method of monochrome ink known as "baimiao." She hovers over the rippling surface of the river, the end of one of her robes fluttering gently in the breeze like a dragon twisting and ascending to the heavens. The elegance and grace here exhibits the spirited and extraordinary beauty of the Goddess of the Luo River. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw]
Innumerable paintings based on the text in "Nymph of the Luo River" have been done over the ages. The famous Cao Zhi poem "Ode to the Nymph of the Luo River" describes how Cao Zhi in 222, after having an audience with Emperor Wendi of the Wei, embarked on a journey from Luoyang heading east to his fiefdom of Juancheng. Along the way on the Luo River, he chanced upon a spirit lady by the name of Concubine Mi, Nymph of the Luo River, and fell in love with her. Despite their mutual affection, a relationship transcending the human and spirit realms was doomed, and they eventually had to part ways. According to legend Cao Zhi was a prince in the state of Cao Wei. He fell in love with a magistrate’s daughter. She married his brother, Cao Pi, and the prince became dejected. Later, he composed an emotional poem about the love between the goddess and mortal. In the 4th century, Gu Kaizhi was moved by the story and illustrated the poem. In one copy, the painting is divided into scenery according to sections in the ode: "Stopping to Rest," "Startling the Beauty," "Enjoyments" ("Picking Fungi," "Cassia Pennants"), "Multitude of Spirits" ("Enjoying the Current," "Soaring over Banks," "Xiang Concubines," "River Maiden"), "The Hesitation," "Preparing the Carriage" ("Wind Deity Pingyi," "River Deity Chuanhou," "Water Deity Fengyi," "Goddess Nuwa"), "The Departure," and "The Sorrowful Return" ("On a Boat," "Sitting at Night," "Heading East").
Famous Tang Dynasty Figure Paintings
"Emperor Taizong Receiving the Tibetan Envoy" by painter Yan Liben (600-673) is treasured both as a masterpiece of Chinese painting and a historical document. Yan Liben was one of the most revered Chinese figure painters of the Tang dynasty. Housed at the Palace Museum in Beijing and rendering on relatively course silk, the painting is 129.6 centimeters long and 38.5 centimeters wide. It depicts the friendly encounter between the Tang dynasty Emperor and an envoy from Tubo (Tibet) in 641. [Source: Xu Lin, China.org.cn, November 8, 2011]
"Noble Ladies in Tang Dynasty" are a series of paintings drawn by Zhang Xuan (713–755) and Zhou Fang (730-800), two of the most influential figure painters during the Tang dynasty, when . noble ladies were popular painting subjects. The paintings depict the leisurely, peaceful life of the ladies at court, who are rendered as dignified, beautiful and graceful. Xu Lin wrote in China.org: Zhang Xuan was famous for integrating lifelikeness and casting a mood when painting life scenes of noble families. Zhou Fang was known for drawing the full-figure court ladies with soft and bright colors.
“The Night Revels of Han Xizai”, by Gu Hongzhong (937-975) is an ink and color on silk handscroll measuring 28.7 centimeters by 335.5 centimeters that survived as a copy made during the Song dynasty. Regarded as one of the masterpieces of Chinese art, it depicts Han Xizai, a minister of the Southern Tang emperor Li Yu, partying with more than forty realistic-looking people. persons. [Source: Wikipedia]
"Five Oxen" was painted by Han Huang (723–787), a prime minister in the Tang Dynasty. The painting was lost during the occupation of Beijing after the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 and later recovered from a collector in Hong Kong during the early 1950s. The 139.8-centimeter-long, 20.8-centimeter- wide painting now resides in the Palace Museum in Beijing.
Great Landscape Paintings from the Song Dynasty
“Travelers Among Mountains and Streams” painted by the Northern Song artist Fan Kuan in the early 11th century is one of China’s most famous paintings and arguable THE most famous landscape painting. Found at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, but usually in storage, its name in Chinese, literally means “Mountain and Water Painting”. It has influenced and been copied by generations of painters and still impresses viewers to this day with its sublime but awe-inspiring interpretation of nature. Madeleine Boucher wrote in the Art Genome Project: According to one story, Fan Kuan took to a journey deep into of the mountains to observe and learn from nature, and there learned how to convey the spirit of the mountains with his brush. [Source: Madeleine Boucher, Art Genome Project, June 24, 2014]
“Early Spring” by Guo Xi is also regared as a great masterpiece. Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: “”Early Spring”, done in 1072, is considered one of the great masterpieces of the Northern Song monumental landscape tradition. It is a rare example of an early painting executed by a court professional who signed and dated his work. Early Spring is characterized by ease and surety of strokes, executed quickly and having a tensile quality and structure. There are seven to eight layers of ink in softer areas, and the tonal range throughout is subtle. Broad outlines of boulders merge with background, showing a preference for integration.[Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=]
"A Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains" by Wang Ximeng (1096–1119) of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) is regarded as a landscape masterpiece and one greatest paintings in China. Painted in 1113 and now part of the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing, this ink and colors on silk handscroll is 1,191.5 centimeters long and 51.5 centimeters wide. Remarkably this very long painting was painted by the artist when he was only 17 and thus is the true work of a prodigy, [Source: Xu Lin, China.org.cn, November 8, 2011]
"Along the River During the Qingming Festival"
“Along the River During the Qingming Festival” (also known as “Up the River During Qingming” and and “The Spring Festival Along the River”) is arguably China’s most famous painting. A handscroll painting by the Song dynasty artist Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145), it captures the daily life of people and the landscape of the capital, Bianjing, today's Kaifeng, from the Northern Song period. Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: “ This painting is considered one of the most valuable in Chinese art history for its high level of technical quality and the liveliness with which it portrays the myriad details of urban life. It is generally interpreted as portraying the city environs of Kaifeng, the Northern Song capital, and some of the surrounding countryside.” The painting is considered to be the most renowned work among all Chinese paintings and it has been called "China's Mona Lisa."
The theme is often said to celebrate the festive spirit and worldly commotion at the Qingming Festival, rather than the holiday's ceremonial aspects, such as tomb sweeping and prayers. Successive scenes reveal the lifestyle of all levels of the society from rich to poor as well as different economic activities in rural areas and the city, and offer glimpses of period clothing and architecture. As an artistic creation, the piece has been revered and court artists of subsequent dynasties made re-interpretive versions, each following the overall composition and the theme of the original but differing in details and technique. Over the centuries, the Qingming scroll was collected and kept among numerous private owners, before it eventually returned to public ownership. The painting was a particular favorite of Puyi, the Last Emperor, who took the Song dynasty original with him when he left Beijing. It was re-purchased in 1945 and kept at the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City. The Song dynasty original and the Qing versions, in the Beijing and Taipei Palace Museums respectively, are regarded as national treasures and are exhibited only for brief periods every few years. [Source: Wikipedia]
According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Zhang Zeduan's "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" from the early 12th century in the late Northern Song period is universally recognized as one of the great masterpieces of Song genre painting. It depicts scenes of prosperity along the banks of the Bian River in Kaifeng, the Northern Song capital. With its realistic techniques in painting and legendary history in collecting, the scroll not only captured the attention of connoisseurs and collectors through the ages but also later became the focus of art-historical research in modern times. Often with numerous opinions but little agreement among scholars, "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" has even become a formal subject of study. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]
“Zhang Zeduan (style name Zhengdao), a native of Dongwu, was skilled at painting vehicles and boats, markets and bridges, and buildings of all types...The title of this painting on the subject of "Along the River During the Qingming Festival" derives in part from Commentary on the Book of Changes: "With ease it is easily understood, and with brevity it is free of labor." In other words, something is easy to understand when its content is plain and straightforward. The artist here therefore probably intended for the viewer to grasp the full scope of prosperity in the capital by simplifying elements of the painting. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ ]
"Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains" by Huang Gongwang
“Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains” by Huang Gongwang (1269-1354) is one of the most famous Chinese paintings. Regarded as a masterpiece, it is one of the few surviving works by the painter Huang Gongwang, one the "Four Great Yuan Masters”. He spent his last years in the Fuchun Mountains near Hangzhou and completed this long handscroll in 1350. Rendered in black ink on paper, it vividly depicts the beautiful landscape on the banks of Fuchun River, with its mountains, trees, clouds and villages. Unfortunately, the painting was damaged by fire and split into two pieces in 1650. The first piece, 51.4 centimeters long and 31.8 centimeters wide, is kept in the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou. The second piece, 636.9 centimeters long and 33 centimeters wide, is kept in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. [Source: Xu Lin, China.org.cn, November 8, 2011]
According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “''Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains'' is not only the greatest surviving masterpiece by Huang Gongwang, it is also a work renowned in the history of Chinese painting. The style of this handscroll traces back to Dong Yuan and Juran of the Five Dynasties and more recently to Huang's contemporary, Zhao Mengfu. It reflects the development of infusing calligraphic techniques into painting and the spirit of literati art with an emphasis on expressing ideas and freehand brushwork to create a new realm of monochrome ink painting. It also came to influence landscape painting of the Ming and Qing dynasties, having crucial value for drawing from the past and inspiring future generations in the tradition of Chinese literati painting [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw].
''Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains'' was completed in the equivalent of 1350, when Huang Gongwang was 82 years old by Chinese reckoning. Huang Gongwang(style name Zijiu, sobriquet Dachi) was born in 1269 during the late Southern Song in Changshu, Jiangsu. Of humble origins, he struggled to achieve an education, extensively studying traditional subjects to complement his numerous talents. In his youth he came to serve as a clerk handling documents in the Jiang-Zhe Branch Secretariat and by his middle years was even recommended for service in the capital. However, he became implicated in a case and was sentenced to prison. After serving time, he abandoned further thought of attaining official rank and returned to home, becoming a Taoist by profession and also developing his art of painting. At that time he often traveled around Suzhou, Hangzhou, Songjiang, and Fuchun, taking in sights from his travels and transforming them into landscapes of the mind, with paintings such as ''Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains'' having a major impact on later generations. Huang Gongwang died around 1354 and was buried in his hometown, having reached the Chinese age of 86.
“Huang Gongwang did not begin painting until around the age of fifty, though it is said that a text records him as being involved in painting in his early years. Not a painter by profession, he left behind few works. “''Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains,'' done by Huang Gongwang between the ages of 80 and 82, depicts the landscape in the area around the Fuchun River where he was traveling and residing. From right to left, the scroll follows the riverbank as hills and mountains rise and fall repeatedly with lush and dense trees. The scenery is sometimes deep and remote and at other times clear and expansive. The scroll throughout is rendered in a ''sketching-ideas'' type of freehand brushwork using monochrome ink. The application of the brush is quite calligraphic, at times gentle and serene, while at others free and untrammeled. The ink tones are rich and varied in the texturing and washes, tracing back to the simple and innocent style of Dong Yuan and Juran in the Five Dynasties and inspiring a tradition of literati painting in the following Ming and Qing dynasties. Other famous works by Huang Gongwang include “Search for the Tao” and “Autumn Clouds in Layered Mountains”
"Lofty Mount Lu" by Shen Zhou
According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: ““This painting features a seal-script title in three characters for "Lofty Mount Lu" along with a long poem from 1467, in which Shen Zhou uses the majesty and vigor of Mount Lu as a birthday blessing for his teacher, Chen Kuan. The painting depicts a lofty mountain with crags and ravines. At the top, the peaks in the distance are connected, while the mountain in the middle is divided and compact, a waterfall cascading downward on the left. To the side are areas left blank with their sides in ink washes, expressing both the majesty and misty atmosphere of the scene. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw]
“The painting as a whole employs the method of dense texture strokes used by the Yuan dynasty artist Wang Meng, rendering the characteristic of faceted mountains and imparting a sense of life to the landscape. Below the waterfall stands a figure appearing quite miniscule in comparison. He stands in the shade of lofty pine trees, making Mount Lu that he looks up to appear even more majestic, reflecting both its life and energy. The scenery here and the long poem take the form of image and text that echo each other to express Shen Zhou's respect and admiration for his teacher., Great Excellence Reaching to the Heavens, Shen Zhou (1427-1509), Ming dynasty, Great Excellence Reaching to the Heavens
“This painting depicts a lofty pine tree, but the composition is quite unusual in that it differs from the traditional arrangement of this subject matter in Chinese painting. Here, Shen Zhou chose not to depict the entire pine tree, only the upper portion and its limbs. Neither the root area nor the top are depicted, just a partial view of the trunk with a few branches. Shen Zhou also used bold brushwork to outline the trunk and branches with finer touches of the brush for the pine needles. He then employed wet ink washes to create a contrast of light and dark, fully conveying a mighty and expressive pine tree reaching for the heavens. The form of the pine precisely echoes the line "With unusual energy striving straight for the heavens" in the poem that Shen Zhou wrote on the painting. Shen also used this as a metaphor to praise the "great talent" of the recipient of the painting. According to Shen Zhou's inscription, he did this hanging scroll in 1479 for Liu Xianzhi, and seven years later Liu presented it as a gift to Chen Fengxiang.
Tang Yin and His Masterful Ladies
Tang Yin (1470-1524) displayed bountiful talent right from the start. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “ Born in the "gengyin " year under the Chinese zodiac of the tiger, Tang was given the name "Yin” and his early style name was Bohu (meaning "tiger"). His style name was later changed to Ziwei, and he also had the sobriquet Liuru jushi. A native of Wuxian near Suzhou, Tang Yin showed genius in childhood and by the age of sixteen had entered a state school. Placing first in the apprentice civil service exams, he was appointed as a Government Student in Suzhou Prefecture. He thereupon came under the guidance of such senior Hanlin Academy scholars from Wu (Suzhou) as Wen Lin, Wang Ao, and Yang Xunji. Promoting ancient-style prose with the likes of Zhu Yunming, Wen Zhengming, and Xu Zhenqing, Tang Yin became known as one of the "Four Talents of Wu." [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei, npm.gov.tw]
According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “Tang Yin was endowed with extraordinary talent, his style of figure painting quite diverse as he chose from a range of subjects mostly dealing with historical narratives, lofty scholars, and ladies. The contents of his figure painting depict the elegant lifestyle of scholars in leisure and even anecdotes about brothel courtesans. Citing from literary allusions, the forlorn lady became a metaphor for the scholar abandoned by his ruler, Tang Yin using the sentiments of a tragic woman to express the feelings of his own situation. Tang Yin's figure painting in this mature period reached a pinnacle of achievement in both "sketching ideas" with monochrome ink and "fine lines" with strong colors. The brushstrokes in his figures, whether fine and flowing or angular and abrupt, all marvelously portray the spirit and harmony of the subjects. Famous classic works from this period include "Lady Ban's Round Fan," "Imitating a Tang Artist's Lady Painting," "Reminiscing with Xizhou," and "Lofty Scholars."
“Tao Gu Presenting a Lyric” is a hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, measuring 168.8 x 102.1 centimeters. It tells the historical story of Tao Gu (903-970) being sent on a mission from the Song court to the Southern Tang kingdom. Tao, being dispatched as an emissary to a weaker state, assumed an air of arrogance. To expose his insolence, the Southern Tang court ordered a famous courtesan, Qin Ruolan, to seduce Tao. After the two spent the night together, Tao composed a poem entitled "A Beautiful Scene" as a gift for Qin. Here, Tang Yin used plantain, garden rocks, and a screen to create an intimate scene for the two main characters. The lady playing the pipa with her foot over her knee represents Qin Ruolan. Between the two is a candle, echoing a line in the inscription that reads, "A single night brings lovers together in a lodge." This painting is exquisite and beautiful, the figures, rocks and trees, and plantain all in the style of Du Jin (fl. ca. 1465-1509), suggesting it was done later than 1499, when Tang and Du met for the first time in Beijing. Judging from the style, Tang probably did this work in his thirties.
“Lady Ban's Round Fan” is a hanging scroll, ink and colors on paper, measuring 150.4 x 63.6 centimeters. Beneath windmill palms stands a lady holding a silk fan with only hollyhock in the foreground to suggest the chill of autumn. But if it is already a cool autumn day, why does she still need a fan? The painter has used the fan as a metaphor. Taking the "Song of Regret" by Lady Ban (ca. 48-6 B.C.), her last lines personifying a fan read, "I often fear when the autumn season comes; The cool breeze drives out the heat of summer. I will be discarded in a box; The affection for me having long since been forgotten." Tang Yin uses the story of how Lady Ban lost the emperor's favor (becoming as useless as a fan in autumn) to express his own frustration in life. The drapery lines of the figure are rendered with lively brushwork, the technique already quite sophisticated, making this one of Tang Yin's classic surviving figure paintings. Wen Zhengming's inscription at the upper right is signed "Zhengming," a name he started using around the age of 42. Wen and Tang were born in the same year, so Tang probably did this painting sometime after the age of 42., Reminiscing with Xizhou, Reminiscing with Xizhou
Image Sources: Wikipedia, University of Washington; 3) Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html, China Beautiful website, Palace Museum, Taipie;, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Shanghai Museum. Luo Ping ghost painting from the Met in New York, Nelson-Atking Museum, Ressel Fok collection, Shanghai Museum.
Text Sources: Palace Museum, Taipei, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Last updated November 2021