Chinese Rotation 10.11



 Dong Qichang (1555-1636)

 Xihongtang Fashu

(Model Calligraphies from the Hall of Playful Geese)

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1603

Album leaves; ink on paper

Purchase, 2003



Dong Qichang was best known for his establishment of an orthodox lineage of scholar-amateur painters (called the Southern School) that defined the classical canon for Chinese landscape painting from the 17th century through the end of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).

At the same time, Dong also was an influential calligrapher, and assembled an orthodox lineage of calligraphy models that paralleled his efforts in painting. Dong had these models carved into stone, so that they could be made into rubbings and widely disseminated, through his multi-volume magnum opus, Model Calligraphies from the Hall of Playful Geese.


The title of this compilation takes its inspiration from a story concerning the eminent calligrapher Wang Xizhi (303-361), who supposedly had a breakthrough in developing his fluid brushwork by studying the supple movements of geese. The present section shows one of the many works by Wang Xizhi selected by Dong as a model for later calligraphers to emulate.



Chen Daofu (1483-1544)


China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), early 16th century

Handscroll; ink and color on paper

Gift of Mrs. Renee Halbedl, 1960



Chen Daofu was one of the most innovative painters and calligraphers associated with the Wu School in Suzhou, which dominated Chinese painting during much of the Ming dynasty. He is believed to have studied with either Shen Zhou (1427-1509), identified by later scholars as the founder of the Wu School, or Shen's most prominent student, Wen Zhengming (1470-1559). However, his highly individualistic style defied identification with a single lineage, and when Wen Zhengming was asked if Chen was his student, he denied it, stating that he had established his own path and could no longer be said to belong to the Wen family tradition.


This handscroll is characteristic of Chen's work, with loose, impressionistic brushwork that borders on abstraction. The light colors, while typical for the Wu School, are unusual for Chen, who favored a monochrome palette that emphasized variations in ink tonalities.


Ke Jiusi (1290-1343)

Bamboo after Wen Tong

China, Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), dated 1340

Hanging scroll, ink on paper

Gift of Mrs. Carter Galt, 1956



Ke Jiusi was a leading artist, calligrapher and painter during the Yuan period. He was in charge of authenticating paintings for the Mongol emperor Wenzong (r. 1330-1332). He was also a close associate of Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322) who often inscribed Zhao's paintings, and he did collaborative work with Ni Zan (1301-1374). After Wenzong's death, he retired to Suzhou, where he contributed to making this city a leading center for the arts for a decade before he passed away.


One of the few Yuan dynasty paintings in the Academy's collection, this work takes as its subject bamboo, for which Ke was best known. By the Yuan, bamboo already had a long history as a favored topic for scholar-painters, since the brushwork for its leaves and stalks was closely related to that used for calligraphy. Ke often modeled his bamboo after the Song dynasty (960-1279) painter Wen Tong (1019-1079), and his inscription identifies the present painting as being in the manner of this earlier artist. Bamboo had a special significance for Yuan painters: its supple stalks bent without breaking, and its leaves remained green during the winter, symbolizing the ability of the scholar to weather adversity.


Zhou Chen (1450-1535)

Scholars in a Landscape

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), early 16th century

Fan painting; ink on gold paper

Purchase, 1967



Although Suzhou is best known for the scholar-amateur tradition of the Wu School that developed during the Ming dynasty through such artists as Shen Zhou (1426-1509) and Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), it also produced some of the leading professional artists of the 15th-16th centuries, including Zhou Chen. Zhou worked not in the expressive manner deriving from the Four Masters of Yuan Painting that characterized the Wu School, but rather in the tightly controlled, technically accomplished style of painting developed by the Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279) court.


This style experienced a resurgence during the early Ming, and was patronized by the Ming court. The first emperor of the Ming was born a commoner, and he not only distrusted the Suzhou intelligentsia, but also rejected their aesthetic taste. Court influence can be seen in this painting most noticeably through the use of distinctive "axe-cut" texturing (fupi cun); this technique is found in paintings by Suzhou scholar-amateur painters only infrequently, but was a stock part of the repertoire for most professional artists.


Mo Shilong (active ca.1567-1600)


China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Fan painting; ink on gold paper

Gift of L.B. Nerion in memory of Dr. Gustav Ecke, 1971



Two boats float on the slate river’s swell,

One novel sound heard on the water’s surface.

Pearls from the dragon shore return, could they be the moon?

The one from the tower of Chu departs, trailing snow.

Tangles appear east of the duckweed, causing thoughts of autumn,

Shadows fall before the oaks, revealing the evening light.

Ten miles of fading red with no end in sight,

The lotus’ robe still seems jealous of the pomegranate’s skirts!


Mo Shilong was a contemporary of Dong Qichang, whose calligraphy model book Xihongtang fashu (Model Calligraphies from the Hall of Playful Geese) is also on display in this gallery. Together with Dong, he was responsible for establishing the Songjiang area near Shanghai as an important artistic center in the late Ming dynasty. Mo was active in the highest social, literary, and artistic circles of his time, and was admired for both his poetry and his brushwork in painting and calligraphy.


Mo’s calligraphy, like that of Dong Qichang, was firmly within the Wang Xizhi tradition, as handed down through the prominent Song dynasty (960-1279) connoisseur-artists Mi Fu (1051-1107) and Su Shi (1036-1101). The sense of dance-like rhythm created by twisting turns of the brush, with frequent changes in direction and momentum, is a hallmark of this style.



Sun Zhi (active 1550-1580)


China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Fan painting; ink on gold paper

Gift of Mrs. Francis McWayne, 1968



Little is known of the life of Sun Zhi, a minor Wu School painter from Suzhou. At the time he was active, painting in Suzhou was dominated by the Wen family tradition, first established by Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), and carried on by his students, notably his nephew Wen Boren (1502-1575).


The narrow framing of the scene, with both the main massif on the left, and the outcropping upon which the figures rest on the right, extending beyond the frame provided by the fan format, is typical of the Wen family style; the rigid vertical ascension of the left side is especially reminiscent of Wen Boren. At the same time, the overall brushwork and composition is conservative, and hearkens back to Wen Zhengming's teacher, Shen Zhou (1427-1509), who favored using landscape elements to separate the viewer from the scene (as if spying upon on an intimate moment). This is noticeable in the way the right outcropping establishes a barrier between the viewer and the scholar admiring a waterfall.


Sun Zhi (active 1550-1580)

Peach Blossoms in a Jade Cave, after Liu Songnian

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 16th century

Fan painting; ink and colors on paper

Gift of Mrs. Francis McWayne, 1968



Sun's inscription in the upper right indicates that this painting is in the manner of the late 12th-early 13th century court painter Liu Songnian. Liu was associated with a refined style of landscape painting using bright mineral colors, and his influence is evident here in Sun's use of blue and green accents. Although Liu was a professional artist, he was studied by Wu School scholar-amateurs, in particular Wen Zhengming, who established the dominant style for the Wu School practiced by Suzhou artists (including Sun Zhi) during the 16th century.


The painting is filled with symbols of longevity, including deer, cranes, peach blossoms, and lingzhi fungus (used as a medicine for long life). This makes it likely that Sun intended the work as a birthday present. The cavern on the right refers to an ancient Daoist belief in "cavern heavens" (dongtian), subterranean paradises the served as dwellings for immortals away from the "dusty" mortal realm.
Wang Qian (active late 16th-early 17th century)

Divine Dwelling on a Pine Cliff

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1604

Hanging scroll; ink and colors on gold-flecked paper

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Hutchinson, 1987



Little is known of Wang Qian, and this is an exceptionally rare surviving landscape by the artist. Although he was from Linhai in Zhejiang province, the style of the painting places Wang firmly within the Wu School tradition centered around Suzhou, revealing that Wu School influence was by no means limited to this city.


Compositional techniques like the horizontal band of trees marking the transition from foreground to background, and the narrow cropping within a strongly vertical frame, show an indebtedness to Wen Zhengming and Wen Boren, suggesting that the cyclical date in the inscription should identified as 1604, after these artists were active. The meticulous brushwork also is characteristic of the Wen family tradition, although the accumulation of rounded forms to construct the landmasses hearkens back to the earlier southern landscape tradition of Dong Yuan (ca.900-962).



Chen Daofu (1483-1544)

Calligraphy in Cursive Script

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), 1539

Handscroll; ink on paper

Gift in memory of Mrs. Alva E. Steadman, 1960



This long handscroll copies the text of the famous Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) Essay on Happiness by Zhang Changtong (179-219). Zhang's essay was a popular subject for calligraphers, and a Tang dynasty version of it by the court calligrapher Chu Suiliang (596-658) was included in Dong Qichang's Model Calligraphies from the Hall of Playful Geese as one of the orthodox models for later scholar-amateurs to emulate.


A native of Suzhou, Chen Daofu lived at the height of this city's artistic influence, and he was a younger contemporary of two of the Ming dynasty's leading calligraphers, Wen Zhengming (1470-1559) and Zhu Yunming (1460/1-1527). Despite this, he managed to develop his own idiosyncratic style in both painting and calligraphy, emphasizing loose, highly expressive brushwork. A tour-de-force of fluid, energetic movement, this monumental scroll is a particularly distinguished example of Chen's exceptional talent.


Lu Zhi (1496-1576)


China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1565

Fan painting; ink and colors on gold-flecked paper

Gift in memory of Violet Damon Putnam, 1957



A native of Suzhou, Lu Zhi received a good education, and passed the local civil service examinations, but never went on to pursue a government career. Instead, he retired to a retreat in the mountains outside Suzhou, where he lived a reclusive existence, largely avoiding all but his closest friends. He does not seem to have been particularly active in Suzhou social circles, and it is unclear whether he studied with Wen Zhengming, the leading painter of the Wu School in Suzhou at the time. However, Wen Zhengming's style was pervasive during the 16th century, and his influence on Lu is immediately evident in this fan through the carefully constructed composition, tightly controlled brushwork and use of light color.

Lu Zhi (1496-1576)

Plum Blossoms

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), mid 16th century

Hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper

Gift in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Alexander, 1956



Plum blossoms traditionally were admired in China as the first flowers to blossom in the spring, emitting their fragrance while snow was still on the ground. This was taken as a symbol of strength in adversity. Lu's composition is extremely sparse, with two blossoming branches emerging from the left, one extending diagonally to the lower right, and the other rising to occupy the center of the painting. The branches are heavily textured with dry ink, providing an effective contrast to the delicate white flowers.


This painting was in the collection of the Qianlong emperor (r. 1735-1796), and in addition to numerous imperial seals, it bears a poem inscribed by the emperor in the upper center. About plum blossoms, the poem matches the rhyme of Lu Zhi's own on the same subject in the upper right, which in turn takes its inspiration from an earlier poem by Lin Bu (965-1026), the Song dynasty scholar who first popularized plum blossoms as a poetic theme.


Shao Mi (1592-1642)


China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1642

Fan painting; ink and colors on gold paper

Purchase, 1957



Active in Suzhou, Shao Mi first studied the Wu School style of this city, but he eventually became involved with Dong Qichang, and was an advocate for the orthodox lineage of scholar-amateur painting promoted by Dong. He suffered from poor health, and like Ni Zan before him, seems to have been obsessed with cleanliness, leading to a reclusive lifestyle.


Shao's inscription indicates that this fan is in the manner of the founder of the Wu School, Shen Zhou (1427-1509), and Shen's influence can be seen in the casually painted scholar in a hut on the right. At the same time, the brushwork is idiosyncratic, and there is a spatial ambiguity to the cliffs and clouds on the left that reveals Shao's own interest in experimentation.


Chen Daofu (1483-1544)


China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), early 16th century

Fan painting; ink on gold ground

Gift of Robert Allerton, 1957



Chen Daofu (1483-1544)


China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), early 16th century

Fan painting; ink on gold ground

Purchase, 1957



Qiu Ying (ca.1494-1552)

Landscape with Scholar in Pavilion

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), ca.1530-1540

Fan painting; ink and light colors on gold paper

Purchase, 1964



Qiu Ying rose from humble origins to become one of the leading artists of the Ming dynasty. A professional painter, he studied with Zhou Chen (whose Scholars in a Landscape is on display nearby), and from him learned the technically accomplished style deriving from court painting of the earlier Southern Song (1127-1279) dynasty. At the same time, he lived during the ascendency of the scholar-amateur Wu School, and was a younger contemporary of Wen Zhengming (1470-1559). Consequently, his work can in many ways be understood as a synthesis of the various divergent artistic trends in Suzhou during the 16th century.


The subject of a scholar in a humble retreat looking out over a body of water is typical of the Wu School. Similarly, the compositional arrangement and cropping of the scene are reminiscent of Wen Zhengming. However, the brush techniques, especially for the shading of the rocks, and the skillful attention to detail indicate Qiu's professional training. The use of expensive paper with designs embossed into the gold ground is especially noteworthy, and suggests the high social level of the patron for whom this fan would have been intended.






Attributed to Ni Zan (1301-1374)

Old Trees and Lonely Bamboo

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), ca.17th century

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Anonymous Gift, 1944



This painting entered into the Academy's collection as an authentic work by Ni Zan, one of the leading painters of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). However, it has since been identified as a later forgery. Gustav Ecke proposed that it might have been done by Xiang Shengmo (1597-1658), who enjoyed one of the finest private collections of the 17th century, and carefully studied Ni's work, often emulating it in his own paintings. While it remains difficult to confidently determine the painting's actual artist, the physical characteristics suggest that it could have been done as early as the 17th century, and it reveals a high level of technical accomplishment and an intimate familiarity with Ni's style.


A painting of the same title is recorded in two separate painting catalogues from the 17th century, and since the inscription on Academy's painting is close to that recorded in these catalogues (but with telling differences); it seems likely that it was a copy of a known painting by Ni circulating at the time. By the 17th century, Ni had become renowned as one of the prototypes of the scholar-amateur artist, and there was a considerable market for his work, resulting in numerous forgeries. At the same time, the painting might also have been made as a study copy, rather than an intentional forgery, and as its provenance was obscured, it eventually became attributed as an authentic work by the Yuan master.



Attributed to Yun Shouping (1633-1690)

Lilies, Cypress and Rock

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

Hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper

Gift of the Honorable Alva A. Steadman, 1960



Yun Shouping was born into a family of artists, and became the leading painter in the "bird and flower" genre during the early Qing dynasty, with his style eventually recognized by the Qing dynasty court. The artist led a dramatic life; he survived the Manchu invasion of China, however, after his family fled to join the resistance movement in Fujian, he became separated from them, and was for a time kidnapped into another family as an adopted son. He eventually was reunited with his father, and the story became famous, being used as a subject for plays even during the artist's life. Yun was associated with the Orthodox School through his close friend Wang Hui (1632-1717). Since Yun was extremely selective in his clientele, and refused to work for those he considered unworthy, he spent much of his life in poverty, and Wang Hui had to pay for his funeral.


Yun was well-known for his development of a "boneless" or un-outlined style of flower painting, with innovative washes and use of color. Although the present work bears a signature reading "Shouping," and two artist's seals, several features of the brushwork, including most noticeably the prominent but rather casual outlining of the trees, identify this as a forgery. However, the fine silk used for the mounting and the large ivory scroll knobs indicate that it was a treasured work for a collector before it entered the Academy's collection.




Attributed to Dong Qichang (1555-1636)


China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

Hanging scroll; ink and colors on paper

Gift of Mrs. Robert P. Griffing, Jr., in memory of

Miss Alyce Hoogs, 1962



This painting bears an inscription with the signature "Qichang," two artist's seals, and even a later authentification on the title slip identifying it as an genuine work by Dong Qichang. However, while the painting uses Dong's characteristic compositional method of assembling a landscape from abstracted geometric forms, both the brushwork and calligraphy are exceedingly coarse, revealing it as a forgery. In fact, the choice of style, based on that of the Song dynasty scholar-amateur Mi Youren (1086-1165) and characterized by loose dotting to depict the humid atmosphere of southern China, was likely an intentional attempt to mask the technical deficiency of the anonymous forger.


Although the very idea of forgery was anathema to the scholarly ideal of painting as a means of personal expression, there was a significant market for forgeries of famous artists, which were acquired by unwitting collectors and presented as social gifts. As one of the most important art historical theorists in Chinese history, and the leading advocate of the Orthodox School that dominated Qing dynasty painting, works by Dong Qichang were highly coveted, resulting in numerous forgeries. The history of Chinese painting is further complicated by the fact that artists often copied works by earlier masters as part of their studies (which sometimes later became identified as originals). In this case, however, the extent to which the forgery was carried, even to the point of reproducing the artist's seals, suggests that this particular scroll was intended as a forgery from its inception.

Zha Shibiao (1615-1698)

Landscape in the Style of Ni Zan

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), 17th century

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Gift of Shang H. and Nell Ho, 1991



Like his contemporary Hongren (1610-1664), Zha Shibiao was from Anhui. Anhui was an important region for the production of trade goods like paper, brushes and ink, and by the 17th century Anhui merchants controlled much of the commerce in southern China. As they became increasingly wealthy, these merchants began to collect art and antiquities as a sign of their prominent social status, resulting in the development of a distinctive school of painting known as the Anhui School. Raised to a preeminent position as one of the Four Masters of Yuan Painting, Ni Zan (1301-1374) had a special influence on this school, and his style is pervasive among Anhui artists, including both Hongren and Zha Shibiao.


Not surprisingly, in his inscription in the upper right Zha identifies this painting as being in the manner of Ni Zan. The sparse vegetation, dry ink, and distinctive "folded band" texturing (zhedai cun) all represent innovations developed by Ni Zan. At the same time, the monumentality, expansive recession in space, prominently vertical framing, and heavy weighting to one side are completely alien to the simple, almost formulaic aesthetic that typifies Ni's subtle compositions, and, rather, reveal the influence of developments in painting by the Wu School over the course of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), which Zha effectively combined into his own distinctive formulation.


Dai Siwang (1620-1653)

Early Autumn Landscape

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1652

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Hutchinson, 1985



Dai Siwang lived a short, rather tragic life that saw the fall of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) and the invasion of China by the Manchus. As far as traditional records can be relied upon (and they often embellished artists' eccentricities to fit them into accepted stereotypes), his life had many parallels with the earlier artist Ni Zan (1301-1374). Both men were obsessively fastidious, both struggled under foreign invasions, and both gave up their estates for a transient life on a houseboat. Like Ni Zan, Dai Siwang was also selective in his choice of recipients for his works; he painted infrequently, placing great importance on each individual accomplishment, and usually gave them as gifts to his close of friends.


The composition, with rounded hills textured through shading, dotting and "hemp-fiber" strokes (pima cun) is typical of the orthodox lineage of scholar-amateur painting being advocated by Dong Qichang (1555-1636) and his circle at the time. However, the dry brush technique, especially noticeable in the dotting for the foliage, is distinctive, and surprisingly progressive.


Huang Ding (1660-1730)

Silent Mountains in the Evening

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911)

Hanging scroll; ink and slight color on silk

Purchase, 1971



Passing alone through the empty mountains, caged by evening mist,

On a special visit to an isolated recluse, examining the lying pines.

Suddenly, the toils of the dusty world are completely dissolved;

The single tone of a bell from deep within the verdant cliffs.


One of the most talented painters of his generation, Huang Ding was a student of the court painter Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715), a leading advocate for Dong Qichang's orthodox lineage in the early Qing dynasty. However, unlike his teacher, Huang did not paint for the court, rather, he depended on private commissions. He was best known for his work in the manner of the Yuan artist Wang Meng (1308-1385), but was skilled in a wide variety of styles associated with the Orthodox School. The open expansiveness and sense of monumentality in the present work reveal Huang's interest in early Chinese landscape painting from the 10th century, and are especially reminiscent of Juran (fl. 975-993), who introduced southern modes of landscape painting to the Song dynasty (960-1279) court.


Fang Shishu (1692-1751)

Sunny Mountains in an Assembly of Greens

China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1734

Hanging scroll; ink and light colors on silk

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell Hutchinson, 1988



Fang Shishu was a student of Huang Ding (1660-1730), and from him inherited the orthodox style of landscape painting established by Dong Qichang (1555-1636), which gained official recognition in the early Qing dynasty through the court painter Wang Yuanqi (1642-1715), who in turn instructed Fang's teacher. The artist's inscription to the painting indicates that it was entrusted to his son, and a second inscription by Fang's younger brother identifies it as an important family heirloom.


Fang took as his inspiration a painting by the Yuan artist Huang Gongwang (1269-1354), which he had not seen personally but knew through written records. Huang Gongwang's influence is evident from the architectonic construction of the mountains from accumulations of rounded forms, from the layering of dark over light, dry over wet ink, and from the predominance of long "hemp-fiber" texture strokes (pima cun).


Fang Shishu (1692-1751)


China, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), dated 1730

Hanging scroll; ink and light colors on silk

Purchase, 1970



Dong Qichang (1555-1636)

 Xihongtang Fashu

(Model Calligraphies from the Hall of Playful Geese)

China, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), dated 1603

Album leaves; ink on paper

Purchase, 2003



This section of Dong Qichang's Model Calligraphies from the Hall of Playful Geese reproduces the Essay on Happiness (the same text of which is copied by Chen Daofu in cursive calligraphy nearby), as copied by the Tang dynasty (618-907) calligrapher Chu Suiliang (597-658).