Early Chinese Texts on Painting

Early Chinese Texts on Painting

Susan Bush
Hsio-yen Shih
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Early Chinese Texts on Painting
    Book Description:

    For students of Chinese art and culture this anthology has proven invaluable since its initial publication in 1985. It collects important Chinese writings about painting, from the earliest examples through the fourteenth century, allowing readers to see how the art of this rich era was seen and understood in the artists’ own times. Some of the texts in this treasury fall into the broad category of aesthetic theory; some describe specific techniques; some discuss the work of individual artists. The texts are presented in accurate and readable translations, and prefaced with artistic and historical background information to the formative periods of Chinese theory and criticism. A glossary of terms and an appendix containing brief biographies of 270 artists and critics add to the usefulness of this volume.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-886-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface to the Second Edition
    (pp. ix-x)
    Susan Bush
  4. Preface to the First Edition
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-17)

    The Volume of Chinese literature on painting is quite substantial, and the continuity of its development allowed for considerable contributions to art history and to the history of ideas in general. Although the earliest printed editions of painting texts that we know of dated from the sixteenth century, quotations in other forms of literature with earlier imprints give evidence that transmission of such works was steady. The Chinese emphasis on literary learning and China’s early invention of printing meant that texts on painting were often a source of knowledge for those concerned with this art, even though the early paintings...

  7. 1 Pre-T’ang Interpretation and Criticism
    (pp. 18-44)

    Early painting in China generally played the subsidiary role of ornamenting objects for daily and ceremonial use or embellishing architectural elements or carvings. Hence painting merely signified decoration in the Lun-yü (Confucian Analects).¹ When T’ang writers came to trace the origins of painting, they stressed its connection with the symbolic imagery of the hexagrams of the I ching (Book of Changes) or the auspicious designs embroidered on imperial robes. There were few references to painting as such in pre-Han writings. Among the early philosophic texts, only the Taoist Chuang-tzu (4th-3rd centuries B.C.) exhibited an interest in artistic creativity. The story...

  8. 2 T’ang Criticism and Art History
    (pp. 45-88)

    Buddhist art reached its height under imperial patronage during the Tang dynasty (618-906), and the eighth-century muralist Wu Tao-hsüan or Tao-tzu was considered the greatest painter of all times. Unfortunately many masterpieces of temple walls were destroyed during the Buddhist persecution of 845, which marked the end of an artistic era. This fact may have stimulated Chang Yen-yüan to produce his encyclopedic work, the Li-tai ming-hua chi (Record of Famous Painters of All the Dynasties). This collection of introductory essays and biographies, which was compiled around 847, is the main repository of facts about T’ang and pre-T’ang artists. Since the...

  9. 3 Sung Art History
    (pp. 89-140)

    The Sung Dynasty (960-1279) can be thought of as the golden age of Chinese painting. It was a period when the various pictorial genres developed to their full extent, when landscape depiction reached peaks of realism and idealism, and when painting itself began to be considered one of the fine arts. Writings on painting also proliferated during this time, and they reflect these different concerns. Collections of painters’ biographies, which might or might not include historical essays, continued to be produced: they are included in this chapter. A new kind of text that claimed to impart the secrets of landscape...

  10. 4 The Landscape Texts
    (pp. 141-190)

    Landscape painting was thought to have reached its high point early in the Northern Sung, and a series of specialized works soon came to be written on this subject. Three of them have quite distinctive styles and represent different stages of development. The first is the Pi-fa chi (A Note on the An of the Brush) by Ching Hao (ca. 870-ca. 930), a Confucian scholar who painted pines and rocks as well as landscapes. It is couched in the form of a Taoist fable but presents Confucian views, contrasting the complementary polarities of inner substance and external ornament and emphasizing...

  11. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  12. 5 Sung Literati Theory and Connoisseurship
    (pp. 191-240)

    Comments by literary men constituted the earliest writings on painting, and from the beginning they tended to focus on subject matter and the act of creating. By T’ang times the major works of art criticism were written by scholar-officials who had access to important collections and were adept in calligraphy if not in painting. The proper approaches to connoisseurship and a comprehensive history of painting were defined in the Li-tai ming-hua chi. Far more limited in scope were the poems or descriptive appreciations by literary men on specific paintings. Still, because of an author’s fame, later scholarly writers more often...

  13. 6 Yüan Criticism and Writings on Special Subjects
    (pp. 241-288)

    By Yüan times the historical consciousness of Sung had deepened and both artists and critics were forced to confront the problem of models drawn from the past, that is, from art rather than nature. Although most of the writings of the period are by scholars or men with literary connections, two divergent outlooks are evident that may reflect a latent conflict between professionalism and amateurism. Treatises on special subjects begin to be more precise and technical, while the short comments of literati artists continue to express their own concerns on a general level. The tone of Yüan criticism was initially...

  14. Biographies of Painters, Critics, and Calligraphers
    (pp. 291-351)
  15. Glossary of Chinese Terms
    (pp. 352-354)
  16. Glossary of Chinese Names and Titles
    (pp. 355-362)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 363-378)
  18. Index
    (pp. 379-391)