Forbidden City Publishing House, 2008. Item #45774
Chinese painting and calligraphy enjoy a long history. Both were derived from primitive symbols, nourished by Chinese civilization, executed with the same tools, i.e., brush pen, ink, paper, and inkstone, and both were created using lines and strokes as basic elements. Chinese painting and calligraphy both strive for brilliant brushwork and lyric aesthetics. Although they developed into two independent art forms - calligraphy emphasizing emotional release, and painting focusing on sketching likenesses - for millennia there was mutual interplay and development. Through constant interaction, the two art forms complemented and enhanced each other such that they were popularly employed in other traditional arts, and continued to thrive even today. With their long history, unique presentation and aesthetics, Chinese painting and calligraphy have played an indispensable role in the fine arts.
The Palace Museum's rich and comprehensive holdings of traditional Chinese calligraphy and paintings encompass not only extremely rare early masterpieces but also representative works from every historical period. These art works help in understanding the history of traditional Chinese calligraphy and painting. Here, the Palace Museum presents a selection of the finest works in order to introduce visitors to the classics, to share the sophistication of the works, and to reveal the profundity of Chinese culture.
From the Third Century to the Fourteenth Century
The Jin (265-420), Tang (618-907), Song (960-1279), and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties constitute a vital period during which Chinese painting and calligraphy became established with their own masterpieces and time frames. The calligraphy practiced by the Jin dynasty master Wang Xizhi (ca. 303- ca. 361) greatly expanded the artistic possibilities of the emerging Chinese writing system, setting criterion for later calligraphic works. In the Jin dynasty, figure painting with Gu Kaizhi (ca. 345-406) as the leading painter also reached a high level. In the Sui and Tang dynasties painting continued to thrive with new categories such as landscape with buildings, equestrians, and quadrupeds. Famous works by Zhan Ziqian (581-618), Yan Liben (ca. 600-673), and Han Huang (723-787) among others reflect a splendid flourishing era. Structures of Chinese characters formed by Tang dynasty regular-script masters including Ouyang Xun (557-641), Yu Shinan (558-638), Chu Suiliang (596-659), Xue Ji (649-713), Yan Zhenqing (709-785), and Liu Gongquan (778-865) established standards for later generations that are still used today.
Painting matured in the Five Dynasties and the Song dynasty: masters of landscape, figure, and bird-and-flower paintings emerged. With consummate skill, they emphasized the fidelity to objects, developing a refined style. These developments were related to the establishment of the imperial painting academy, the policy of promoting and awarding talented painters, and the popular participation of the scholar-elite in art creation. Calligraphers of the Song and Yuan dynasties advocated distinctive personal styles to show literary cultivation within the norms of calligraphy. Calligraphy was infused with cultural messages beyond serving as a pragmatic system of writing. The notable figures were the "Four Masters of Song" (Su Shi [1037-1101], Huang Tingjian [1045-1105], Mi Fu [1052-1107], and Cai Xiang [1012-1067]), as well as Xianyu Shu (1246-1301), and Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322). In painting, the "Four Masters of Yuan" raised the visibility of "literati paintings", concerning themselves with truth to an essence other than the appearance of the object. They left room for further development in the Ming and the Qing.
The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
In the Ming dynasty Chinese painting and calligraphy blossomed. Inheriting the tradition of the Song dynasty (960-1279), painting and calligraphy achieved tremendous progress theoretically and technically. Many regions produced groups of artists with distinct idioms. The most notable Ming dynasty calligraphy was the cursive script by the "Three Songs" (Song Ke [1327-1387], Song Sui [1344-1380], and Song Guang [act. 14th c.]) and the "court style" regular script by "Two Shens" (Shen Du [1357-1434] and his brother Shen Can). Dominating the painting sphere were the unrestrained "Zhe School" and the "Academic style" led by Dai Jin (1388-1642) and Lin Liang (ca. 1436-1487). From the second half of the fifteenth century, Wumen (Suzhou, Jiangsu province) became the center for painting and calligraphy. Calligraphers such as Wu Kuan (1435-1504) and Wang Chong (1494-1533) escaped the restraint of the "court style" regular script. The "Four Masters of the Wu School" (Shen Zhou [1427-1509], Wen Zhengming [1470-1559], Tang Yin [1470-1524], and Qiu Ying [ca. 1505-1552]) replaced the "Academic style" with thin, delicate colored literati paintings. Chen Chun (1483-1544) and Xu Wei (1521-1593) enriched the brushwork with their innovative free-style bird-and-flower paintings. In the late Ming dynasty, Dong Qichang (1555-1636) developed theories of painting and calligraphy, exerting substantial influence during his lifetime and the succeeding Qing dynasty. Meanwhile, Zhao Zuo (d. after 1636) and Shen Shichong (act. early 17th c.) of the "Songjiang school", Lan Ying (1585-ca. 1666) and Chen Hongshou (1598-1652) based in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, all demonstrated their distinct talents in painting, brightening the art of the turbulent late-Ming society.
The Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)
Qing dynasty paintings and calligraphy benefited from inheritance and innovation. In the seventeenth century, inheriting late Ming calligraphic styles, masters such as Wang Duo (1592-1652) and Fu Shan (1607-1684) as loyalists to the vanquished Ming dynasty released their cynical rage in monumental, strange, and unrestraint brush strokes. The clear and forceful works of the "Four Masters of the Kangxi reign" (Jiang Chenying [1628-1699], He Zhuo [1661-1722], Wang Shihong [1658-1723], and Chen Bangyan [1678-1752]) showed their debt to Dong Qichang. In painting, Wu Li (1632-1718), Yun Shouping (1633-1690), and the "Four Wangs" occupied the "orthodox" position by synthesizing the past and bringing painting techniques to the highest development. By contrast, a new "individual" style of landscape was pioneered by the "Four Monks" (Shitao [1642-1707], Zhu Da [1626-1705], Kuncan [1612-1673], and Hongren [1610-1663]), the "Jinling schoo" of Nanjing, and the “Huangshan School” of Anhui province.
Mid-Qing scholars embraced the idea of reviving the past to establish the new. The promotion of Jin and Tang rubbings by Liu Yong (1720-1804) and Weng Fanggang (1733-1818) elevated the study of epigraphy. By introducing clerical and seal scripts into calligraphy, Deng Yan (Deng Shiru, 1743-1805) and Yi Bingshou (1753-1815) initiated the study of stele inscriptions. At the court, Western painting techniques were adapted to vary pictorial expression. The emergence of the "Yangzhou School" revitalized painting. In the late Qing dynasty enthusiasm for transcribing and copying clerical and seal scripts from steles increased. Calligraphers He Shaoji (1799-1873), Zhao Zhiqian (1829-1884), and Wu Changshuo (1844-1927) were the most prominent. Works of the "Shanghai School" and the "Lingnan School" were appreciated by both educated and common folks for their lively reflection of the times and raised the curtain on modern painting.