CHINA -- QING DYNASTY
(1644 - 1911)
A twelve-panel screen of wood covered in colored and
incised lacquer, dated 1674. The screen is 274 cm H x 582 cm W, with each panel being
274 cm H x 48.5 cm W. There is a long inscription on the reverse of one screen which
indicates that this was specially commissioned as a birthday present for a high-ranking
official in Canton. As commonly depicted in the art of the Qing period,
Europeans are shown bringing tribute and thus are symbolically incorporated into the
Chinese ritual order. Of the hundred or so persons on the inner 10 panels, less
than a dozen are Europeans, mostly to the far left in a safely submissive role. These
"western ocean" peoples are shown outside the wall of the courtyard, which acts as a physical
and symbolic barrier between the Chinese "inner" world of the emperor and his court and the "outer"
world of the barbarians.
Chinese Plum Penjing
The Artist: Wang Tubing (1668-1743)Zhao Qingquan Literati Style Penjing, Chinese Bonsai Masterworks (Shanghai Press, 2015), pg. 46, Figure 55.
The Gazing Garden: View of a Garden Villa
(early 18th cent.), an ink and color on silk handscroll, 52.2 x 294.6 cm (20-9/16 x 116").
Yuan Jiang [Yüan Chiang,
active c. 1690-1746]. Yuan worked in prosperous Yangzhou until about 1725
and then became a court painter. He is chiefly noted for having given
a violent twist to the long-moribund Northern tradition by applying to
the style and composition of early Song dynasty masters the fantastic distortions
of the late Ming expressionists. His works thus are a blend of fantasy
Emperor Qian Long's Pleasure during Snowy Weather
is color on silk, 151" x 63." A similar painting was signed by
six artists, including Castiglione, in 1738. This one must have
been painted at the same time and by the same hands. Qian Long
liked it. The three seals at the top of the painting were added
after he had turned seventy.
appears in the company of nine boys and two consorts in a courtyard where
the trees known as the Three Friends of Winter bloom. (The bamboo
stalks are behind the left corner of the pavilion, partly visible above
the tea cart; the pine's very finely snow-powdered scaly trunk snakes
out of the bottom right of the picture to show two large branches above
the pavilion in the upper right; and the old, almost
horizontal/slightly cascading plum, with just a touch of snow on its
branches is just beginning to show buds near the many branch
tips.) It is a
scene of a happy Han Chinese family at New Year time, with boys playing
while their relaxed parents look on contentedly. The emperor and the
three closest boys wear crown-like headgear. When the picture was
officially accepted, Qian Long had three sons aged ten, eight, and
three. These boys look about two years younger than that.
The emperor is shown amusing his youngest son by hitting a
butterfly-shaped chime hanging from a toy weapon held by an older
son. The other boys in plain caps, presumably cousins, carry
fruit and branches as well as toys but are allowed to light the
Attributed to Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766). As a youth he
trained as a painter before joining the Jesuits. In 1714 he left
Europe to become a missionary, and the following year he arrived at
Macao where he adopted the Chinese name Lang Shining. Moving then
to Beijing, Castiglione was already an architect
and accomplished painter and he soon mastered the academic manner of
his Chinese colleagues. He then proceeded to create a synthetic style
in which a Chinese medium and technique was blended with Western
naturalism, aided by a subtle use of shading. Though he rose to be the
principal member of Qian Long's painting bureau, he actually had no
lasting effect on the native artists. He did create many
important paintings that recorded historically significant
events. On his death, Qian Long issued a special imperial order
granting him the posthumous title of vice-minister.
The Work: Gathering of Literati / The Ninth-Day Literary Gathering at Xingan (1743) is a well-documented handscroll of ink and color on silk. On a board or long rectangular flat slab in the foreground just left of center of this work are two containers: the one on the right is a flat and footed tray containing a dwarfed tree (curved in a shape similar to a rounded "F" or "C") and a small piece of rockery. To the left of this is a round bowl on a low stand containing some companion grass (?).
The Subject: The two wealthy Ma brothers are shown with fourteen others at the Ma's villa of Xingan. This was to the north of the metropolis of Yangzhou. Each guest wrote on the painting -- which was made a month after the gathering -- and an essay describing the event was appended to the handscroll which captures the mix of old and new money and the typical activities of the eighteenth century elite. Salt merchants were consistently wealthy due to regional salt monopolies. The Ma brothers were Huizhou salt merchants who were not only patrons of art, literature and scholarship, but were poets as well. Possessing fabulous wealth, the brothers were a force to be reckoned with in the city as well as in the empire as a whole. Their estates contained collections of paintings, calligraphies, antiquities of various sorts, and rare books and manuscripts. The gathering on that day was to pay homage to the celebrated poet, Tao Qian. Chrysanthemum and wine were used to promote the proper ambience for a day's indulgence in this refined pursuit. This painting commemorates the visit of the major scholar and historian Quan Zuwang (1705-1755), and could be considered to be a kind of souvenir photograph of the occasion. Ironically, Quan himself was absent that day. However, he was represented in the handscroll out of a sense of courtesy as well as to promote the solidarity of the poetry club. That scholars, merchants, retired officials, and quasi-professional painters could meet as members of such a club, in a retreat built on unused land of a Buddhist monastery and purchased with mercantile profits, is characteristic of elite life in this period.
The Artists: Suzhou portraitist Ye Fang-lin [Yeh Fang-lin, aka Ye Zhenchu] "inserted" the portraits on the background scenery laid out by painter and poet Fang Shi-Xu [Fang Shih-chu or Fang Shishu (1692-1751)]. 4
The Work: A 5-1/8" (13.05 cm) diameter saucer (1730-40) depicts three European merchants bargaining with three Chinese in a Canton shop. The rear and right walls of the store are lined with shelves of porcelains. On the left side, partly hidden behind a wall partition, there is a medium-size dwarf tree in a pot on a stand. To the immediate left of that is a slightly smaller potted plant resting on a barrel shaped garden seat. 5
The Work: A tea bowl (c. 1750), porcelain decorated with overglaze enamels and gold, 1-5/8"H and 3-1/4" diameter, shows a "cropped" version of the same scene -- two Europeans and one Chinese -- along its side. 6
The Work: The Glory of the New Year, an ink and color on silk hanging scroll, 137.3 cmH x 62.1 cmW, is not a masterpiece, but it reflects the effort made by Chinese court painters to incorporate European techniques into their work. The picture has a traditional Chinese subject -- a vase full of cut flowers, possibly roses, in front of a rectangular tray with lip which holds a landscape of a rock, some broad-leaved low plants and a number of mushroomlike ling-zhi. However, the work does give the impression of a European still life. The tray is dark brown in color fading/dripping into tan-orange near the bottom where tiny feet come off of the lower rim.
The Artist: Zhang Weibang (Chang Wei-pang, mid-18th cen.) 7
The Work: Picture of Affluence shows five containers from front to back. The rear-most one is tallest and has what appears to be a windswept (to the left) leafless crooked trunk with possibly small berries or thorns. The front containers hold either flowers, fruit, or unidentified objects.
The Artist: Ming Chun (1736-1796). 8
The Work: Qian Long as a Chinese Ruler shows the emperor surrounded by a scholar's objets d'art. To his left and behind him on a low table or perhaps trunk section is a three-foot tall exposed-root pine. At the right edge of the painting is a smaller less distinct dwarf potted tree on a rock stand. 9
The Work: An untitled work shows two pairs of large matched pentsai -- all in similar deep round pots on the equivalent of two foot high six-legged stands -- which are seen left of center in the courtyard between the steps and the kneeling officials. The inner trees are pines, the outer ones are of some broad-leaved variety. From soil level to tree-top they are each perhaps equivalent to at least four feet tall. There might be two other and slightly smaller penjing on the walkway outside of the pavilion where the Emperor sit.
The Subject: An audience given in 1788 by the emperor to senior military officials who had put down a rebellion on Taiwan. Perhaps two hundred people are in the scene.
The Artist: Unattributed, but the calligraphy at the top of the painting is Qian Long's own. 10
The Work: In a painting of the Qing there is a penjing front and forward, on the floor of what is perhaps a scholar's studio. Equivalent to at least three feet in length, the low and narrow tan/pink tray holds several pieces of tan rockery interplanted with white-flowered grasses.
The Artist: [Chin Ting-piao]. 11
The Work: A painting of a potted plant has, in a deep and round very pale blue pot, a complementary sized rock and assorted flowers with white blooms and pink flowers and buds. Behind these are also planted, apparently, a long and tapered thin-trunked serissa and a Nandina with red berries.
The Artist: [Chen Hsueh-hui]. 12
The Work: Gothaer Penjing Album ; Canton; c.1800. An unusual item: 36 opaque color paintings 38.5 x 45.5 cm showing miniature landscapes in rare realistic detail which were apparently manufactured for export to Europe. The paintings were bought in London by the Duke of Gotha for his museum of far-eastern art. Since that time the paintings have been in the possession of the Museum of Friedenstein-Castle in Gotha. The name of the plant is given in Chinese, but there is no other text or even signature. (This appears to be similar to contemporary Chinese furniture catalogs.) The botanically-accurate plants -- to meet the European style of botanical illustrations -- are shown in various pots and styles unlike those found in most contemporary penjing portrayals. It seems that they present an overview of plants used for penjing in southern China, from a private garden for penjing exhibition and not the usual scholar garden setting. Only 5 of the 36 images show tree-only penjing, the rest include rocks and some ornaments. Most appear over-potted to us: in containers wider than what is necessary for the requirements of the plants. Rock and tree are treated as corresponding elements of comparable importance, standard for Chinese miniature landscapes at that time. The landscapes are shown in various and typical rather modern-looking ceramic containers, while single-tree penjing usually stand in "flowerpots." It is not known how many copies of this album were produced, or what type of business resulted from viewing the pictures. 13
The Work: An early nineteenth century gouache (a method of painting with opaque watercolors) shows dwarf potted trees displayed at a Chinese temple. Definite penjing flanked with rockery are on a low wall in the front center of the picture. 14
The Work: Chinese Terrace Scene, one of a set of the four seasons, c. 1800-1810. Oil on canvas, this 25 x 37" allegorical work shows a man flanked by two women, all seated at a table on the terrace and facing the viewer. Two servants are standing near: the taller woman immediately to the right of the man, the second servant, a boy, past the right-seated woman. The human figures are relatively large and are competently portrayed. Set on the raised low wall behind them can be seen eleven potted plants, all but two being similar type flowering specimens. The third plant from the left, partly hidden by the woman on the left, could be a delicate twin-trunked deciduous tree. It is in a large dark blue inverted bell-shaped container which is similar in shape to the vessel of most of the flowering plants. The seventh plant from the left -- seen behind, between and partly hidden by the woman on the right and the second servant -- is a penjing in a low, long, blue glazed rectangular tray. A short multi-branched trunk curves slightly to the left before rising upward and turning slightly to the right. To the right of this in the container is a long dark low rock covering perhaps two-thirds the length of the tray.
The Artist: Spoilum (Guan Zuolin, fl. 1765-1805) one of Canton's best known and most frequented portraitists, or an immediate follower. The first identified Chinese who created portraits, Spoilum made originals or copies on glass, port scenes, portraits on canvas, landscapes, and genre scenes. He was described in his lifetime as "The celebrated artist of China, and perhaps the only one in his line throughout that extensive empire." A strong European influence, probably Dutch, as well as American of that period is present in his work. 15
The Work: A Canton Dish, Jiaqing period (1796-1820), which may include an image of Earl Macartney, former Governor of Madras and Ambassador to China 1792-93 in audience with the Emperor Qianlong. Sixteen other persons look on. To the far left of the 40 cm (15-3/4") oval dish, on what might be a white with green outdoor table, is a two-tree composition in a possibly tri-lobed dish. The trees are have non-green canopies, rising above a green mossy surface. As the historical event took place in September 1793, it is possible the leaves are changing color already -- or perhaps they are fall-blooming specimens. 16
The Work: A 30" x 37-1/2" gouache on silk (c.1810) by an unidentified artist shows an Emperor's audience. Near the outside of the covered court area, between the outer decorated large columns and raised up on stands equivalent to perhaps six feet in height are a fairly matched pair of penjing, one on each side. Each is perhaps over three feet tall and is in a light blue tray, with two reddish-orange rocks flanking a light-greyish- trunked tree -- pine, perhaps? -- which has thin green foliage on the several distinct branches. Over fifty persons are visible in the scene. 17
The Work: The Garden of Delight, Ai-yuan t'u (1826). In the courtyard just above and to the right of center there are shown four largish low penjing -- either trees or contorted rocks -- on low tables in a row.
The Subject: There are about twenty architectural features -- bridges, pavilions and shelters -- scattered throughout the scene which is typical of many traditional gardens. There is an irregular walk round a central and branching lake, some areas are fenced with bamboo, other small plants stand in pots on a table, and chrysanthemums grow in a raised bed. Visitors there would proceed thoughtfully, observantly from spot to spot, composing poems, meditating, pausing to admire the chrysanthemums or to rest with a companion, paint a picture, watch the moon or just drink wine.
The Artist: T'ang I-fen (1778-1853). 18
The Work: Domestic Scene (c.1835). Unattributed oil on canvas painting depicts the lady of the house being dressed by servants. These persons are looking out into a veranda garden on whose ledge there are shown five planted containers. From left to right are three similar long inverted bell-shaped pots (#1, 3, 5) having thin-trunked flowering plants, a small white porcelain bowl with a low growing grass (#2), and a low rectangular container bearing a small penjing (#4). A low pointed rock to the left and a delicately thin multi-branched tree to the right are in this tray whose edges show an interesting pattern of slight and wide vertical indentations. The painting's dimensions are given as 19 x 25." 19
The Work: Pan Khaqua's Garden (19th cent.). Unattributed Cantonese export watercolor showing plants in pots and garden buildings. Four blue rectangular trays (equivalent of 1-1/2 to 4 feet long) are seen, each containing a rock with some form of "extension" and also a dwarf tree, either a twin-trunk or two closely planted specimens. A half dozen more squarish pots are seen with trees, three large bowls (equivalent to 1-1/2 to 2 ft in diameter, two of them holding large-trunked trees), and assorted smaller planted bowls, some with trees and some apparently with "just" standard flowering plants. The plants toward the front of the picture are around an open-air rectangular garden pond. (Two fan-carrying natives towards the right rear of center provide scale.) The garden is typical in that it is crammed with pools and pavilions that were constructed by the educated class and those who aspire to elegance. No large rockery is seen here. 20
The Work: The Chih Garden in Yangchow (19th cent.). Unattributed woodcut shows an elegant garden with formal pavilions and straight-angled galleries which has been set among extravagantly informal rocks. Pentsai are lined up on long low tables and on individual stands on the far left side of the picture. 21
The Work: This woodcut illustration (25 x 14 cm) is from The Exalted Gentleman's Book of Records and Punishments ( T'ai-shang kan ying p'ien t'u-shuo ), Volume III (1881). A very crude depiction, it shows a large pine (equivalent to over three feet tall) in a large round container on the left edge of the woodcut. A musician is near the left front corner of the piece, a servant-girl (?) is just right of the tree and she stands between it and a central table at which are seated two men wearing officials' headgear. The pictures in this extensive book, printed in a Peking workshop, are particularly typical specimens of allusive drawing and improvisation by folk woodcarvers of the late Qing period. 22
The Work: Girls Learning (end of 19th cent.), a black and white, uncolored woodcut (63 x 112 cm), is a New Year's picture on a Confucian theme about the need to study, from a workshop in Yang-liu-ch'ing. The left side of the picture is shown, and a medium-sized pine in a tall pot on a five-legged bamboo stand equivalent to perhaps four feet tall is in the upper center of the picture next to a similarly positioned top-flowering potted tree. On a carved multi-level wall partition to the left are at least three smaller potted plants and perhaps a foot tall gnarly viewing stone on its own custom little stand. Four girls are at the long carved table which is in front of the partition and just beyond whose end the first mentioned dwarf potted trees are located 23
One print shows five men at
what is apparently a nursery of some sorts. The seller (by his submissive
posture) is talking to a seated dignitary whose standing companion watches.
Two others of some status are talking among themselves to the side.
Potted plants -- bearing fruit, flowers or foliage -- are on five shelves
seen in mostly deep round plain pots. Two round decorated pots to
the left have feet; two rectangular decorated pots to the right also have
feet. One of those rectangular pots holds a plant having a particularly
familiar curve in its trunk. Is this an instance of a post-Tang nursery?
A translation of the calligraphy on the picture's upper left and along
the right edge is thus:
The Artist: Wu Yu-ji [aka Wu Yu-ju] lived in China at the turn of the last century. He delighted in illustrating all sorts of historical and legendary events. His works were highly popular with the Chinese, although they may be regarded as more traditional than exact. Some furniture shown, for instance, probably was of a much later date than the Tang dynasty being represented, while the dresses are typical of the period as well as the "sitting mats" and low tables. Wu used details that Du Fu had mentioned in his poems. 24
The Work: Another illustration shows assistants rubbing the inkstone for Su Dong-po. Behind them on a large stand is a penjing containing a bamboo next to the large, low center rock. The large rectangular pot is decorated with calligraphy. To the right of this on a lower platform is a deeper vase-like pot containing several nondescript flowering branches.
The Artist: Wu Yu-ji [aka Wu Yu-ju]. 25
The Work: Fortune and Peace is the title of a third print. On the left is a large narrow-necked vase holding a bouquet of camellias (?). A plucked orchid (?) lies in front of this. On the right in a small rectangular container is a tall creviced rock amid abundant low grass and a bunch of higher flowering plants.
Wu Yu-ji [aka Wu Yu-ju].
1. Jackson, Anna and Amin Jaffer
(ed.) Encounters, The Meeting of Asia and Europe, 1500-1800 (London:
V&A Publications; 2004), pp. 206, 207, 211, 346, 384, color photo, pp. 208-209.
Providence is "Private collection, Toronto." Also as pp. 120-121 in Kerr, Rose (ed.)
Chinese Art and Design, Art Objects in Ritual and Daily Life (Woodstock, NY: The Overlook Press; 1991)
with caption for Fig. 47 on pg. 118: "LACQUER SCREEN 1625-50, Ming-Qing dynasties 250.4 x 587.5 cm"
Sullivan, Michael The Arts of China
(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press; 1984, Third Edition), pg. 229.
Hay, John Kernels of Energy, Bones of Earth: The Rock in Chinese Art (New York: China House Gallery; ©1985 China Institute of America), pp. 16 (Pl. 2), quote from note for No. 43 on 143.
3. Ho, Chuimei and Bennett Bronson
Splendors of China's Forbidden City, The Glorious Reign of Emperor Qianlong
(London: Merrell Publishers
Limited; 2004. In association with the Field Museum of Chicago.),
caption on pg. 189 for Fig. 232, and caption on pg. 213 for Fig.
267, which is detail of 232, pp. 168-169, 187, 212-213;
Goodrich, L. Carrington and Nigel Cameron
The Face of China As Seen by Photographs & Travelers, 1860-1912
(New York: Aperture, Inc. 1978), pg. 149;
Sirén, Osvald Gardens of China
(NY: The Ronald Press Company; 1949), pp. 120, 126, 129.
4. Naquin, Susan and Evelyn S. Rawski
Chinese Society in the Eighteenth Century
(New Haven & London: Yale University Press; 1987), pg. 69, with b&w photo on pg.
70, location given as Cleveland Museum of Art, the Severance and Greta Millikin Purchase Fund;
Chou, Ju-hsi and Claudia Brown
The Elegant Brush, Chinese Painting Under the Qianlong Emperor, 1735-1795
(Phoenix Art Museum, 1985), pp. 133-138, with three sections in b&w
on pp. 134-135. Biographies are given of each of the participants
in the painting and a translation of some of the colophons/inscriptions can also be found here;
Smith, Bradley and Wan-go Weng China: A History in Art (A Gemini Smith Inc., Book published by Doubleday & Company; 1979), with larger color copy on pg. 248, and statement on pg. 292 that the work is on paper (not silk), location given as Wan-go H.C. Weng, New York; a different part of this scroll but without pentsai is shown as Fig. 3.49 in Engel, pg. 82.
5. Palmer, Arlene M. A Winterthur Guide to Chinese Export Porcelain (New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.; 1976), Figure 4, pg. 32.
6. Trubner, Henry and William Jay Rathbun China's Influence on American Culture (Seattle, WA: Seattle Art Museum; ©1976 China Institute in America), pg. 32, b&w pg. 33, Fig. 8. "Lent by Mr. and Mrs. Rafi Y. Mottahedeh."
7. Yang, Xin et al
Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting (New Haven
& London: Yale University Press and Beijing: Foreign Languages Press; 1997), pp. 285 and 381,
Fig. 272 on pg. 289.
9. Horizon Magazine,
The Horizon Book of the Arts of China
(New York: American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc; 1969), pp. 290-291.
Fairbank, John K., Edwin O. Reischauer and Albert M. Craig: East Asia, Tradition & Transformation (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company; 1989. Revised Edition), pg. 236 has small b&w photo with detail of emperor and pine.
10. Yong Yap and Arthur Cotterell Chinese Civilization, From the Ming Revival to Chairman Mao (New York: St. Martin's Press; 1977), b&w on pp. 106-107, location given as Victoria & Albert Museum, Michael Holford Library.
11. Lin, Kuo-cheng Miniature Bonsai (Taipei: Hilit Publishing Co., Ltd.; 1987. First English Edition, 1995), color photo on pg. 31.
12. Lin, color on pg. 28.
13. Personal e-mails from Gunter Lind to RJB, 05/09/06, 05/14/06, and 06/22/06, from web site http://www.bonsai-fachforum.de (registration needed to go to specific page: upper left tab "Fachwissen", then "Geschichte und Philosophie", then article "Vorwort: Der Bonsai in der Kunst", then about halfway through the choices as the bottom of the page, http://www.bonsai-fachforum.de/kb.php?mode=article&k=128"). Images reproduced by permission.
14. Roger, Allen Bonsai (London: Cassell Educational Limited, for the Royal Horticultural Society; 1981, 1985), pg. 7.
15. Crossman, Carl L. The Decorative Arts of The China Trade (Woodbridge, Suffolk: Antique Collectors' Club Ltd; 1991), Colour Plate 50, pg. 161; also pp. 35, 52, 156, 406. "Private collection."; Jackson and Amin, pg. 281.
16. Battie, David (ed.) Sotheby's Concise Encyclopedia of Porcelain (Boston: Little, Brown and Company' ©1990 Conran Octopus Limited. First U.S. Edition.), pg. 65.
17. Crossman, Carl L. The China Trade (Princeton: The Pyne Press; 1972. Second printing, 1973), Fig. 79 color, pg. 96. Private Collection.
18. Thacker, Christopher The History of Gardens (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press; 1979), b&w pg. 61.
The Decorative Arts of The China Trade, b&w Plate
75, pg. 159. "Photo author's collection."
20. Titley, Norah and Frances Wood
Oriental Gardens, An Illustrated History
(San Francisco: Chronicle Books; 1991), pg. 71, Fig. 56.
21. Keswick, Maggie Chinese Garden: History, Art & Architecture (New York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc.; 1978), Fig. 104, pp. 112-113.
22. Hejzlar, Dr. Josef Early Chinese Graphics (London: Octopus Books Limited; 1972), Plate 27, in the author's private collection, plus some of caption for Plate 26.
23 . Hejzlar, Plate 56, in the author's private collection.
24. Ayscough, Florence
Tu Fu, The Autobiography of a Chinese Poet
(London: Jonathan Cape; 1928) Vol. I, pg. 159;
translation by Michelle Chang of Taipei while as a student at ASU, Tempe, AZ, early 1995;
Liang, Amy The Living Art of Bonsai (New York: Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.; 1992), pg. 107; Lin, pg. 70 has with the caption "A Ming [sic] Dynasty picture showing a bonsai stall."
25. Liang, pg. 99.
26. Liang, pg. 103;
also on pg. 29 of Lin, Kuo-cheng
Miniature Bonsai, A Complete Guide to Cultivating Tiny Bonsai
(Taipei: Hilit Publishing Co., Ltd.; 1987).