The Chinese Literati on Painting

The Chinese Literati on Painting: Su Shih (1037-1101) to Tung Ch’i-ch’ang (1555-1636)

Susan Bush
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 244
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  • Book Info
    The Chinese Literati on Painting
    Book Description:

    This classic work, first published in 1971, explores the transition in painting styles from the late Sung period to the art of Yuan dynasty literati. Building on the pioneering work of Oswald Siren and James Cahill, Susan Bush’s investigations of painting done under the Chin dynasty confirmed the dominance of scholar-artists in the north and their gradual development of scholarly painting traditions, and a related study of Northern Sung writings showed that their theory was shaped as much by the views of their social class as by their artistic aims. Bush’s perspective on Sung scholars’ art and theory helps explain the emergence of literati painting as the main artistic tradition in Yuan times. Social history thus served to supplement an understanding of the evolution of artistic styles.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-874-2
    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)
    S. B.
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  7. 1 Northern Sung (960–1127)
    (pp. 1-28)

    From literary evidence it would seem that the idea of a scholars’ art first appeared at the end of the eleventh century. New theories were presented in the writings of Su Shih ( 1037–1101) and his circle of friends, and they defined an outlook common to scholars of subsequent periods. Although there was a shift of view in the Yiian period, another complex of theories was not formulated until late Ming times, when Tung Ch’i-ch’ang ( 1555–1636) and his friends established the literary men’s tradition of painting. And Tung’s influence was predominant on both the writings on art...

  8. 2 The Views of Northern Sung Literati
    (pp. 29-82)

    The first writer to coin a term for the painting of scholars, as opposed to that of professional painters, was Su Shih. He wrote on a painting by Sung Tzu-fang, the nephew of his friend Sung Ti:

    Looking at scholars’ paintings is like judging the best horse of the empire, one sees how spirit has been brought out; but when it comes to artisan painters, one usually just gets whip and skin, stable and fodder, without a speck of superior achievement. Mter looking at a few feet or so one is tired. [Sung] Han-chieh’s is truly scholars’ painting (shih-jen hua)....

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 83-86)
  10. 3 Chin (1122-1234) and Southern Sung (1127-1260)
    (pp. 87-117)

    Northern Sung came to an end in 1126 when the Jürched Tartars captured K’ai-feng and took Hui-tsung to the north as a prisoner. Thereafter, while the Sung dynasty continued in the south, the Jürched ruled in north China under the dynastic name of Chin. Their culture developed under Shih-tsung (r. 1161–1190) and reached its height under Chang-tsung (r.1190–1209). Then the Mongol invasion began, and the dynasty fell in 1234 when the last Chin emperor was killed. Although the Jürched had developed a script for their own language, admiration for Chinese culture made them lean toward learning Chinese; and...

  11. 4 Yüan (1260–1368)
    (pp. 118-146)

    While the Chin rulers had appreciated Chinese culture and adopted Chinese ways, the attitude of the Mongols was quite different. They remained suspicious of the Chinese, particularly the southerners, and took steps to limit their power. The Mongols were wary of following the example of the Chin dynasty, which had been undone by Confucianism. Hence they forbade intermarriage with the Chinese and continued to speak and write their own language. Contacts with Western countries gave them a cosmopolitan outlook, and different religions were tolerated. But the imperial family did not produce any noted collectors like Chang-tsung of Chin, and the...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 147-150)
  13. 5 Ming (1368–1644)
    (pp. 151-179)

    A native dynasty ruled China again in 1368, and scholars came out of retirement to serve it. But the first Ming emperor Hung-wu (r. 1368–1398) valued military men more highly than the scholars, who had come to his cause late.¹ Since educated men had not taken a lead in the rebellion, their prestige remained low at court, and the influence they had had in the Sung period was not regained. In 1380 Hung-wu abolished the office of prime minister and the chief administrative organ, the Central Chancellery, making the emperor’s power more autocratic than before. After this, effective control...

  14. 6 Conclusion
    (pp. 180-186)

    The preceding section tried to trace the lingering influence of Tung Ch’i-ch’ang on Chinese art criticism and show that his theory must be taken into account in modern histories of Chinese painting. To some extent, the elitist views of the Ming scholar-artists can be seen as a defense of the prerogatives of their class. Joseph Levenson has attempted to relate the aestheticism of Ming art to the ideal of the amateur fostered by the examination system during this period. It is true that scorn for the professional may have been pronounced at the time, but if his definition of the...

  15. Appendix: Chinese Texts
    (pp. 187-204)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 205-214)
  17. Glossary
    (pp. 215-220)
  18. Index
    (pp. 221-227)