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Republic of China
Chronology of China


VIII. Qing Dynasty

In 1644, the Manchu people entered Shanhaiguan Pass. The arrogant Manchus in this year would never expect that they will become the last rulers of China's dynastic cycle. For this ethnic group who was used to military life, the China they took over was more like a hot potato than when it was in Mongols' hands. On one hand, there were many disgruntled adherents of the Ming Dynasty; on the other hand, the industrial revolution which took place in Britain in the eighteenth century had rapidly spread over Europe and the United States, and its chilly corner would push China into a position that she never foresaw.

The most prominent artist among court painters in the Qing Dynasty was Giuseppe Castiglione. Castiglione (Chinese name Lang Shining), was an Italian missionary who came to China in 1915. As a skillful artist, Castiglione was called into the palace by the Emperor Kangxi, an emperor who attached great importance to the Western technology, and served as a court painter from then on for more than five decades. Through diligent working, Castiglione mastered the academic style that his colleagues were proficient at; in the meantime, he added the Western perspective skill as well as coloring method into the works created from brush, Chinese colloid pigments, rice paper and silk, forming an eclectic style that blended the European and Chinese techniques.

Quail and Fishes, Bada Shanren

From the reign of Emperor Kangxi to Emperor Qianlong, Castiglione was extremely appreciated in the palace, since his heavy-colored realistic style was suited for the decoration demand there very well. The other court painters in the Qing Dynasty, such as Jiao Bingzhen, Leng Mei, and Ding Guanpeng, also started to adopt the western way to paint under his influence. Except for Castiglione, the Western missionary and painter who came to China in the same period included Jean Denis Attiret (Chinese name Wang Zhicheng) from France, Ignace Sichelbarth (Chinese name Ai Qimeng) from Bohemia, and Louis Antoine de Poirot (Chinese name He Qingtai) from France. Although their works were criticized as "without brushstrokes, with neatness that belongs to artisan, they should not be counted into the qualified paintings", these painters still cannot be ignored in the Chinese art history. As early as in the end of the Ming Dynasty, the western influence on Chinese painting had been on the horizon. Castiglione and his followers in the Qing court could accurately depicted the object's appearance, while correspondingly, at the cost of the loss of spirit and artistic conception which is dominant for traditional Chinese painting. Therefore some scholars and painters rejected to accept Castiglione, considering what he painted was not Chinese painting.


Other than the impact from the West in the imperial painting academy, the literati painting was still the mainstream in the Chinese art world, and was still appreciated by the emperor and the upper class. In the early Qing Dynasty, referred as the "Four Wangs", Wang Shimin, Wang Jian, Wang Hui, and Wang Yuanqi, sometimes with Wu Li and Hui Shouping referred as "Four Wangs and Wu and Hui" or "Six Masters in the early Qing", were representative orthodox landscape painters in this period. Without significant innovation, their landscape painting was inherited from Dong Qichang and kept on good terms with the past, nevertheless, the authentic tradition of literati painting which they represented still has merit.

When literati painting developed into the Qing Dynasty, it gradually lost its significance of rebellion and renovation, and had become another kind of academic for its conventionalization and repetitiveness. However, it doesn't mean that all literati painters would like to follow the beaten track. The most creative literati painters came from the adherents of the Ming Dynasty, who could generate a pure power in their paintings from the anger and pity for a defeated country and a lost home. Monk Hong Ren is the founder and most outstanding painter of the Anhui school of landscape painting. He loved to paint the Yellow Mountain (Mt. Huangshan), but the pine on cliff he painted is often inverted, bringing viewers a sense of alienation and loneliness. Being influenced by Ni Zan, however, Hong Ren clearly showed more personal feelings in his paintings than just imitating the nature. Of course his expression is a traditional literati type, by changing all his anguish and sorrow into an inverted Huangshan pine. The Nanjing painter Gong Xian's landscape expresses another kind of lonely. Gong was good at using ink, as well as developed the accumulated ink method initiated by predecessors. If the landscape paintings created by masters in the Song Dynasty are noted for the "transparency", landscapes by Gong Xian, on the contrary, is famous for its "untransparency". In his painting there are airtight landscapes, despair that nowhere to hide from, and dead silence. Not all adherent painters of the Ming Dynasty are as cold as Gong Xian. Kun Can, courtesy name Shi Xi (means stony brook), became a monk after the fall of Ming Dynasty. His style of landscape painting was influenced by Wang Meng, but is more complex and full of countless details that fill the picture, expressing a feeling of broad-minded and tolerant. The personality that Kun Can showed in his landscape painting is quite a warm one.


In the early Qing Dynasty, there were four outstanding painters as well as adherents of the Ming Dynasty and monks, who are called the "Four Monk Masters" by later generations. Hong Ren and Kun Can are two of them, and the other two are Bada Shanren and Shi Tao. In fact, the latter two monks really accomplished an epoch-making achievement in the Chinese art history. Bada Shanren, whose original name is Zhu Da, was a descendent of the royal family of the Ming Dynasty. After the Qing Dynasty established, he shaved his head to be a Buddhism monk. For the Sutra of Eightfold Enlightenment (Ba Da Ren Jue Jing in Chinese pinyin) he used to exercised, he named himself Bada Shanren.

Sketch of Sceneries, Shi Tao

The stylized vertical writing of his pseudonym Bada Shanren on his paintings is quite unique, when Bada looks like the characters for laugh and Shanren looks like cry, thus by signing his paintings he implied his confusion and feelings of grief for the fate of his country and home. Bada Shanren's painting style was born out of Xu Wei's in the Ming Dynasty, but more incisive and cynic. He has an extreme inner world, while his painting expressed an extreme world as well. The bird, fish, duck he depicted are all lonely and angry, who often roll their eyes heavenward on a endless blank background; the wood, stone, mountain and water he depicted are nothing near comfortable, expressing a feeling of desolated and incomplete. After the Manchu took over the throne, Zhu Da decided not to speak anymore. Some said he was crazy, and some said he was pretending to be crazy. Every time he went into the street, he was followed by a group of children who made fun of him behind. This is a bit like his Western peer Van Gogh. However, his expression method is extremely oriental, like Zen painting, with simple and unconstrained brushstrokes. Bada Shanren is a betrayer of the tradition, as well as an innovator of the tradition. Being different from the previous innovators, Bada's style is impossible to imitate. His seemingly simple composition and seemingly casual brushstrokes are all rooted in his own temperament; the artist conveys his energy to the viewers in a special confirmed and confident way; therefore, his style cannot become a paradigm, and makes anyone who tries to imitate him shrink back. Comparing with Bada Shanre, whose style is simple, straightforward, but with strong visual impact, Shi Tao, the other descendent of the imperial clan of Ming Dynasty, was more mellow and rational. Shi Tao, original name Zhu Ruoji, was only three years old when the Ming Dynasty collapsed. During his young age, his family had gone downhill and he became a Buddhist monk afterwards. Shi Tao's aesthetic thoughts were recorded in his theory book "Painting Quotations". He advocated a painting theory of "heaven and man united as one", just as what he practiced in his own paintings. For example, the title of one of his paintings "Search Every Lofty Peaks for A Draft" itself is an argument. Shi Tao's style is very lively and colorful by using all kinds of ink including dry, wet, heavy and light. The brushstroke he used to paint mountains is quite unique, which is, before one line was finished, a new direction was born from the old direction, thus every line is twisted and turned, and the charm of stroke is inexhaustible. Shi Tao doesn't agree to imitate the ancient style, while his freedom in brushstrokes can be described in his own words, "even the brushstroke is not like brushstroke, or the ink is not like ink, there is an I in it." Shi Tao loved social life, and in the meantime, he could consciously keep an expressive force in his painting. His style encouraged many excellent individualistic painters in the eighteenth century, who were often called "Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou".

Receiving A Letter in Spring, Lang Shining

Beijing referred as the Eight Eccentrics of Yangzhou, they were not eight people, but a group of professional painters, including Zheng Xie, Li Shan, Li Fangying, Jin Nong, Gao Xiang, Wang Shishen, Huang Shen, Luo pin, Hua Yan and so on, who arose in the affluent Yangzhou in the middle of eighteenth century. Their eccentric and stylized style were often deemed anti-tradition by their contemporaries; however, unlike their predecessors Zhu Da and Shi Tao, the eccentric artistic style in their paintings was not from heavy historical burden or anger toward reality, but more from a purely playful attitude. The seriousness which could usually be found in the adherent painters in the early Qing Dynasty had disappeared here. In the mid eighteenth century, a lot of salt merchants in Yangzhou had just ascended into the gentry class, therefore they were badly in need of art to put on the dog. In order to get the salt merchants' attention, the large number of professional painters in Yangzhou had to run after the novelty and thus, their anti-tradition and non-mainstream were more or less artificial. In the past, most of literati paintings were painted as a hobby by wealthy scholars, so there was no fierce competition. Alone with urbanization and commercialization, the market gradually grew into a new force which could influence the painting style.


Painting of the late Qing Dynasty was less innovative than the previous dynasties, while even showed signs of imitation, but it was not without success. In the first half of twentieth century, numerous artists gathered in the metropolitan area of Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangdong, therefore the Beijing School, Shanghai School, and Lingnan School came into being respectively. By the end of the Qing Dynasty, the commercial city Shanghai attracted a group of professional painters, such as Zhao Zhiqian, Ren Xiong, Ren Xun, Ren Yi, Wu Changshuo, etc., who lived by selling paintings. They were creative in both style and technique to meet the needs of the public, who were called "Shanghai School". In the Lingnan area, Ju Lian, Ju Chao became pioneers of the Lingnan School.





在清朝宫廷画家中,地位最显赫的是郎世宁。郎世宁,意大利人,原名朱塞佩·伽斯蒂里奥尼(Giuseppe Castiglione),1915年以传教士身份来到中国。当时郎世宁已是一位画艺精湛的画家,重视西方技艺的康熙将之召入宫中,从此开始了他长达五十多年的宫廷画家生涯。郎世宁工作勤勉,很快掌握了中国同行们的学院派风格,并将西方透视法以及色彩运用融入到以毛笔、胶质颜料、纸绢创作的作品中,形成一种融合了中西方技法的折中风格。从康熙到乾隆时期,郎世宁在宫中极受欢迎,他浓艳的写实主义风格非常适合宫廷的装饰。受他的影响,清宫廷画家如焦秉贞、冷枚、丁观鹏等也开始用西法作画。同一时期来华的西洋传教士兼画家还包括法国的王致诚、波希米亚的艾启蒙、法国的贺清泰等,他们的作品虽被评论为“笔法全无,虽工亦匠,故不入画品”,但他们仍是中国绘画史中不可忽略的人物。中国画受西方的影响早在明末人物肖像画中已初见端倪,发展到清朝宫廷,从郎世宁和其追随者的画风看来,他们对绘画对象的“形”的把握更为精确,然而与之相应,付出的代价则是中国传统绘画中居于主导地位的神韵和意境的丧失。因此有部分学者和画家排斥郎世宁,认为他所画的并非中国画。






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