Wang Yuanqi (1642–1715) and Daoji or Shitao (1642–1707) were born in the same year but led very different lives.1 Daoji or Shitao: The original secular name of the artist was Zhu Ruoji, but he has been called Daoji by writers since the early eighteenth century. He has never used this name himself either in signatures or in seals. The names that the artist used were Yuanji or Shitao, which appear in his seals. However, the artist is commonly known as Daoji in publications outside China (see J. Cahill, The Compelling Image, Nature and Style in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Painting, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, 1982, p. 237; on the life and works of Daiji or Shitao, see Cahill, pp. 184–225; J. Hay, Shitao, Painting and Modernity in Early Quing China, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001). Wang Yuanqi was born into a scholar-gentry family and served as a high official at the imperial court of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) whereas Daoji was a descendent of an imperial family of the fallen Ming dynasty (1368–1644) who became a Chan (Zen) Buddhist monk to escape political persecution.2 Buddhism originated in India in the sixth century AD. The meditative school of Buddhism originated in China in the sixth century and reached Japan in the seventh century. It is now commonly known in the West as Zen Buddhism. The word for meditation is Dhyana in Sanskrit, Chan in Chinese and Zen in Japanese (see M. A. Pang, The Art of Zen from the Asian Collection, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2004).

The contrast in the social status of the two artists is shown by their portraits. In the portrait by Yu Zhiding (fig. 1), Wang Yuanqi is posed as a successful and prosperous scholar bureaucrat in a garden with potted plants. He is portly and looks self-satisfied, a figure of authority. He is, however, dressed in the casual attire of a Chinese scholar, not in the formal robe of a court official. Seated on a couch (kang), he is surrounded by books and scrolls of paintings, emblems of his highly cultivated learning. He is holding a cup of wine and waited on by servants. Chrysanthemums, the flowers of autumn, are arranged in a vase and grown in flowerpots. They probably allude to the scholar-recluse and poet, Tao Yanming (365–427), who retired from his official post to return home to a quiet, simple life and cultivate chrysanthemums.

By contrast, in his self-portrait of Master Shi supervising the planting of pine trees, 1674 (fig. 2), a much younger Daoji presents himself as an elegant monk sitting under a pine tree on a rock. He is relaxed, a free spirit, surrounded by wild nature and assisted by a young monk and a monkey. This self-portrait by Daoji is lyrical and in the freer style of the scholar-amateur tradition of ink and brushwork, while the portrait of Wang Yuanqi is in the meticulous and decorative style of a professional artist of the court academy.

 

The National Gallery of Victoria has in its collection a painting by each of these masters dated within a year of each other: The Fuchun Mountains, 1699 (fig. 3), by Wang Yuanqi and Landscape, 1698 (fig. 4), by Daoji.3 For a detailed discussion of these paintings, see Pang, ‘Transmission and transformation: The art of imitation in Wang Yuanqi’s Fuchun Mountains scroll’, in I. Zdanowicz (ed.), Art Bulletin of Victoria, 41, NGV, Melbourne, 2001, pp. 19–28; Pang, Mountains and Streams, NGV, Melbourne, 2006, pp. 61–5; see also Hay, pp. 128–9, fig. 74. By focusing on these two paintings, I will trace the connections between Wang Yuanqi and Daoji and their respective theories on the concepts of creativity.

The life of Wang Yuanqi

Wang Yuanqi was the most innovative master of the Orthodox scholar-amateur tradition of painting during the early Qing dynasty. Born in 1642 Wang Yuanqi came from an established scholar-gentry family in Taicang, Jiangsu province in China. His great-great-grandfather, Wang Xijue (1534–1611), held a prominent official position as a grand secretary in the imperial court of the Ming dynasty. His grandfather, Wang Shimin (1592–1680), who served as an official for a short time, was highly influential in the art world and was the leader of the Orthodox school of painting.

As a young man Wang Yuanqi received a classical Confucian education and obtained the highest degree (jinshi) at the exceptionally young age of twenty-eight. After occupying various provincial posts, Wang was invited to serve at the Beijing court in 1690. He later served as the artistic adviser to the Kangxi emperor (r. 1662–1723), being appointed in 1700 to authenticate paintings and calligraphy in the imperial collection. The emperor, who was well versed in the work of Dong Qichang, admired Wang’s landscape paintings and often asked him to paint in his presence. Wang, whose artistic influence at court was immense, was instrumental in establishing the Orthodox landscape manner as the official style for court painters.

Shortly after 1700 Wang wrote an essay on the theory and history of painting ‘Yuchuang manbi’ (‘Scattered notes at a rainy window’) and in 1705 the emperor appointed him editor-in-chief of the Peiwen zhai shuhua pu (Imperial Encyclopedia of Calligraphy and Painting), which was completed and published in 1708. Many of the inscriptions that accompanied his paintings were collected and published in the Lutai tihua gao (Wang Yuanqi’s Inscriptions on Paintings). In 1712 Wang attained a prominent position as a senior official with the Board of Revenue, a post he held until his death in 1715.

Dong Qichang and the Orthodox school of painting

Wang Yuanqi’s grandfather, Wang Shimin, learned painting from Dong Qichang (1555–1636), the most powerful and revolutionary scholar-amateur artist of the late Ming dynasty, and was Dong’s self-designated artistic heir. In upholding Dong’s theory of the Northern and Southern schools in painting, Wang Shimin became the leader of the Orthodox school of painting.4 The other members were his friend Wang Jian (1598–1677), a scholar-amateur artist, his grandson Wang Yuanqi and Wang Hui (1632–1717), a professional painter. For the Orthodox school, see R. Whitfield, In Pursuit of Antiquity: Chinese Paintings of the Ming and Ch’ing Dynasties from the Mr. and Mrs. Earl Morse Collection, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1969.

As a theorist Dong divided the history of painting into the Northern school (academic and professional painters) and Southern school (scholar-amateur painters) with the latter designated as the ‘Orthodox’, or ‘legitimate’, lineage (zhengzong) of painting. The division was not geographic, but was based on an analogy with the division in Chan Buddhism: the ‘gradual enlightenment’ associated with the Northern school versus the ‘sudden enlightenment’ of the Southern school.5 The episode, which triggered the division of the Northern and Southern schools of Chan Buddhism, concerned the selection of the sixth patriarch. In the seventh century, when it was time to choose a successor, the fifth patriarch, Hongren, announced that he would choose the one who had submitted the best poem expressing his understanding of Buddhism.
 During the night, the learned monk Shenxiu, from the north, posted the following lines in the corridor near the Patriarch’s quarters: The body is the Bodhi Tree; The mind like a bright mirror standing, Take care to wipe it all the time, And allow no dust to cling. On the following day, a poem by the monk Huineng, from the south, appeared beside the first:
 There never was a Bodhi Tree, Nor bright mirror standing. Fundamentally, not one thing exists,
 So where is the dust to cling? Although illiterate, Huineng, who revealed a fundamental understanding of Buddhism in his verse, was chosen by Hongren as his successor and became the sixth patriarch. To Huineng the mind is not a tangible entity or object like a mirror. Enlightenment has to be a sudden and complete awakening to one’s original or true nature (‘no mind’) that is fundamentally empty, clear and pure. The school founded by Shenxiu from the north became known as the Northern school of gradual enlightenment. The school founded by Huineng from the south became known as the Southern school of sudden enlightenment (see A. W. Watts, The Way of Zen, Pantheon, New York, 1957, pp. 111–13).

Dong used Chan concepts to distinguish between ‘art’ (the spontaneous Southern school) and ‘craft’ (the academic Northern school). Like Chan, art cannot be defined or described and, as in a Chan awakening, the artist creates with originality from within. ‘Art’ is not measured by achievement in the gradual mastery of technical academic skills and conventions, which are characteristics associated with ‘craft’. There is no ‘gradual enlightenment’ in the Northern school; it is a ‘gradual advancement’. ‘Artistic truth’ is transmitted from mind to mind, in a way similar to the transmission of ‘spiritual truth’ in Chan. Artistic creativity is a form of self-realisation.

 

Wang Yuanqi’s The Fuchun Mountains

In The Fuchun Mountains (fig. 3), Wang Yuanqi has consciously carried out Dong’s ‘creative approach (within tradition)’ to painting or fang (creative imitation) by transforming the styles of the early masters into his individual style. As we read the handscroll from right to left, we first encounter Wang Yuanqi’s inscription: ‘Modelled after (or in the style of fang) the brush conception (biyi) of Huang Zijiu’s (Huang Gongwang’s) long handscroll The Fuchun Mountains, Wang Yuanqi’.6 For Huang Gongwang and a full illustration of his Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, 1347–50, see Cahill, Hills beyond a River: Chinese Painting of the Yuan Dynasty, 1279–1368, New York, 1976, pp. 85–113; Pang, ‘Transmission and transformation’, pp. 20–2. This handscroll was once in Dong Qichang’s art collection and Dong had made copies of it (see Pang, p. 22). Huang Gongwang (1269–1354) was one of the four great masters of the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) and was among the early painters classified by Dong as belonging to the Orthodox lineage which began with Wang Wei (701–776), poet and painter of the Tang dynasty (618–906).

Wang Yuanqi’s concept of fang was derived from Dong Qichang, who first advocated the theory of transforming (bian or hua), the styles of the ancient masters. Paradoxically, Dong constantly urged others ‘not to resemble [the ancients] so as to resemble them’. It probably came about as a reformative measure to regenerate the scholar-amateur style of painting in the late sixteenth century.

In following Dong’s concept of fang, Wang has commented:

In Huang Gongwang’s long handscroll of The Fuchun Mountains, the brush and ink can be said to be like the transforming and creative operations of nature [huagong]. Those who follow it must do so by means of shenyu [communicating in spirit]. One must not seek outward appearances [ji, traces]. If in the aspects of composition and the application of texture strokes, one has investigated and studied to such an extent that one has mastered the method – and even if [these aspects] resemble in external form and pattern those in Huang Gongwang’s painting, one has already been left behind in the dust [of others]. [In such a case] would it not be as though the great masters were restricting us? 7 See Wang Yuanqi, ‘Lutai tihua gao’, in Deng Shi & Huang Binhong (eds), Meishu congshu (1912–36), vol. 1, pt 2, Taipei, 1960, pp. 26–7.

Moreover he stated: ‘Painters who simply comply with the rules and express no ideas beyond the formulas, have ever since olden times been considered worthless fellows’.8 ibid. According to Wang Yuanqi, painters should not concern themselves with the superficial aspects of the painting, but engage in ‘communication with the artist in spirit’, aspiring to penetrate the workings of his mind to discover the underlying principles of his painting.

In his handscroll The Fuchun Mountains Wang Yuanqi transforms the style of Huang Gongwang through Dong Qichang and the art of ‘creative imitation’ (fang). What Dong had discovered in Huang’s landscapes was an underlying compositional framework, an abstract order of formal relationships. It was Dong who first discovered Huang’s mode of formal construction, which is concealed by the naturalism of his landscapes. Stripping away the rich surface texture and the sensual experience of nature in Huang’s landscapes, Dong in his own paintings concentrated on the earlier master’s geometric approach to formal construction and created semi-abstract, introspective landscapes that appear radically different from Huang’s; for example, Mountain Landscape, 1617 (fig. 5). True to the spirit of scholar-amateur painting as a vehicle for self-expression, Dong created an austere inner landscape with a dissonance that expresses the instability of the late Ming period. Thus, in his creative imitation of the styles of the ancients, Dong himself implemented his paradoxical approach of ‘resembling by not resembling’.

Inspired by Huang Gongwang’s Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains and Dong’s transformations of the Huang Gongwang style, Wang’s Fuchun Mountains is constructed from a system of semi-abstract forms, activated by dynamic rhythms expressing the creative energy of both artist and nature. These rhythms also evoke aesthetic emotions analogous to those of music. This rhythmical form of expression is facilitated by the mobile and temporal character of the Chinese handscroll, which is read from right to left. In this painting Wang has introduced a new relationship, the dynamic interactions between solid forms and empty space; for example, the introductory passage of the handscroll.

Wang was the first to point out that the dao (way) of music is interchangeable with that of painting, drawing comparisons between the rhythmic patterns of music and the compositional spacing of painting, between the rising and falling tones in music and brush movements and ink tonalities in painting.

This handscroll, which Wang painted when he was fifty-seven years old, belongs to his early style and is a germination of creative ideas. The brushwork is spontaneous and animated, enriched with subtle tonal and textual gradations of ink. Its sketchiness, inspired by both Huang and Dong, has a childlike quality – an apparent awkwardness highly regarded by scholars as essential to the amateur ideal. As in Dong’s landscape (fig. 5), the human figure, a reminder of the banal and dusty world, is excluded, even though in Huang’s Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, the tiny figures of a fisherman and a scholar recluse are repeated several times.

The life of Daoji

Daoji was born in the remote region of Guilin, Guangxi province, the same year as Wang Yuanqi. A direct descendent of a Ming imperial prince, Daoji was a cousin of Bada Shanren, known to some as the mad monk painter, who also took refuge in becoming a Chan Buddhist monk.9 For Daoji or Shitao, see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 184–225; Hay, Shitao, Painting and Modernity in Early Qing China. For Badra and his paintings in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, see Pang, ‘Zhu Da, the Mad Monk Painter’, in S. Dean (ed.), Art Bulletin of Victoria, no. 25, NGV, Melbourne, 1985, pp. 41–61. When the Manchus overran the south of China in 1645, Daoji’s father, the prince of Jing Jiang, died after an ill-fated attempt to claim the imperial throne. Daoji at the age of four fled Guilin with a family servant. To avoid political persecution he also became a Chan Buddhist monk.

During the 1650s and 1660s Daoji wandered through the Yangtze River region, visiting famous mountains, staying in monasteries and studying Chan Buddhism. From the late 1660s to 1680 he lived in Anhui province where he met and was influenced by some of the individualist painters of the Anhui school. Between 1680 and 1687 Daoji lived near Nanjing and in 1684 was personally addressed by the Kangxi emperor when he visited the Changgan Monastery as part of his first southern tour.10 In spite of the sudden success of 1644, the Manchu conquest of China took another forty years to complete. This was finally achieved in 1683 by Kangxi (1654–1722), who was the second Qing emperor to reign in Beijing. Kangxi was one of the great rulers in Chinese history. He inherited the throne at the age of eight and assumed absolute control of the Qing Government at the age of fourteen. The Kangxi emperor was brilliant at ruling in an imperial style acceptable to both his Manchu and his Chinese subjects. Almost as a public relations exercise, he made several southern tours to establish cultural contacts with the scholar and landed-gentry class in the Yangtze River region. In 1687 Daoji moved to the prosperous commercial city of Yangzhou where he lived until his death in 1707. On the occasion of the Kangxi emperor’s visit to Yangzhou as part of his second tour of the south, Daoji was granted an imperial audience.11 Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 196, 200, 202; Hay, pp. 326, 327.

 

From 1690 to 1692 Daoji visited the Qing capital of Beijing, probably as a guest of the Manchu aristocrat Bordu (1649–1708) (a great-grandson of Nurhaci, the founder of the Qing dynasty) who became the first of his painting students there.12 Hay, p. 327. Around the same time he probably gave up his emotional commitment to the restoration of the Ming and became reconciled to living under the Manchus.

Wang Yuanqi was also active in Beijing, then the stronghold of the Orthodox school. Daoji painted a collaborative painting of bamboo and rocks with Wang Yuangi, dated 1691 (fig. 6), although it is not certain if they had actually met.13 Wang Yuanqi has written the following short inscription on the painting: ‘Litai (Wang’s other name) has added [onto the painting] the rocks on the hills’. This suggests that Daoji painted the bamboo and orchids first and Wang Yuanqi the rocks afterwards, but it looks as if Wang Yuanqi had painted the rocks first and then Daoji painted the bamboo later. On the other hand, the bamboo and orchids could stand on their own as a completed painting, whereas the rocks could not. Moreover, the placement of the rocks depends very much on the composition of the bamboo and orchids. It seems that the two artists must have discussed the composition of the painting before they proceeded. However, Shi Shouqian thinks that the two artists did not meet and that the painting was done by them at different times (see Shi Shouqian, ‘Shitao, Wang Yuanqi hezuo lanzhu de wenti’ (‘The questions surrounding the painting of orchid and bamboo, a joint work by Shitao and Wang Yuanqi’); ‘Fengge yu shibian’ (‘The changes in style’) in Zhongguo huihuashi lunji (A Collection of Essays on the History of Chinese Painting), Taipei, 1995, pp. 341–59). While in Beijing Daoji had the opportunity to see works by the Orthodox masters, including Dong Qichang, and his knowledge of their style of landscape painting is evident in his works of the 1690s, for example, Landscape, 1698 (fig. 4).

Daoji’s Landscape

Daoji painted this work (fig. 4) in his Studio of Great Purification (Daditang), as is clear from the inscription in the upper left: ‘In the wuyin year [1698], the third [lunar] month in spring, the old gentleman, Mr Ge’s mountain retreat, to ask for approval’, signed by Daoji’s other names, Qingxiang chenren (the old man from Qingxiang).

The studio, where he took up residence in 1697, was named after the Daoist site of Mount Dadi near Hangzhou and, from this point on, Daoji declared himself a Daoist. It seems that he had decided to leave the Buddhist order (sangha) as early as 1696. In 1697 he became a professional painter and taught painting in his studio. He uses the signature of Qingxiang chenren (the old man from Qingxiang) for the first time in this inscription.14 Hay, pp. 328–9.

In Daoji’s Landscape a dynamic formal structure underlies the apparent disorder of nature, echoing the paintings of Dong Qichang (fig. 5) and Wang Yuanqi (fig. 3). There are similarities and parallels between Daoji’s 1698 landscape and Wang’s landscape of 1699: a system of building a composition out of composite masses and intervening empty spaces; for example, in the beginning passage of Wang’s handscroll and the left middle-ground of Daoji’s landscape. But Daoji embellishes the landscape with sensual surface texture and the effects of light and mist, a result of his intimate contact with nature during his wanderings in the mountains. The earthy landmass appears organic and fluid. Like the landscapes of both Dong and Wang, Daoji’s landscape is a mountain retreat with no human presence: an empty pavilion is depicted on a rocky cliff as a place for contemplation. Some of the trees are similar to those in Dong’s mountain landscape.15 A landscape painting by Daoji, Painting at the studio window, in a private collection shows greater similarities to Dong Qichang’s trees, composite rock formations and brushwork. It looks like an actual copy of Dong’s landscape in the form of an album leaf (see Hay, p. 43, fig. 24).

Although painted a year earlier, Landscape stands as a mature work, whereas Wang’s 1699 handscroll is from a formative stage in his career. Wang did not reach his full stylistic development until his handscroll The Wangchuan Villa after Wang Wei, dated 1711, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.16 This landscape is painted in ink and pigment and is at the height of Wang’s artistic development (for illustrations, see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp.194–5, fig. 6.8; Whitfield, cat. no. 31). Daoji’s landscape is more expressive than Wang’s but it is calmer and more stable than Dong’s landscape, thus reflecting a more stable political situation in the early Qing period.

Daoji’s method of no-method

The years spent in Beijing from 1690 to 1692 seem to have confirmed Daoji’s rejection of fang and the Orthodox school’s adherence to styles and conventions of the past, which had stifled creativity. Daoji’s resistance is expressed in his inscriptions and in his theory on painting, the Huayu lu (Record of Conversations on Paintings) written around 1700,17 It is generally held that the Huayu lu (Record of Conversations on Paintings) was written in about 1700 and the revised version of this text, Hua pu (Treatise on Painting), was printed in 1710. At some time between 1705 and 1707, Daoji completed the manuscript of the Hua pu. The earliest appearance of Daoji’s treatise on painting is written on a fan, dated around 1697–98 (see Hay, pp. 272, 329, 330; for a translation of the Hua pu, see E. J. Coleman, Philosophy of Painting by Shih-tao, A Translation and Exposition of his Hua-p’u (Treatise on the Philosophy of Painting), Moutaon, The Hague, 1978). almost the same time as Wang Yuanqi’s treatise, Yuchuang manbi (Scattered Notes at a Rainy Window). At the time Wang Yuanqi was the only creative master within the Orthodox school and succeeded in his method of creative imitation and transformation. The other Orthodox masters, Wang Shimin and Wang Jian, painted very conventional landscapes without much that was new. Wang Hui, who advocated a ‘synthesis’ of the styles of the ancient masters, also failed to achieve originality.

Daoji asserted the importance of using his own method in the following inscription:

In painting, there are the Southern and Northern schools (lineages). There is a saying by Zhang Rong ‘I don’t regret that I do not have the methods of the two Wangs (famous ancient calligraphers). I [only] regret that the two Wangs do not have my method.’ Now [if you] ask, the Southern and Northern Schools, do I follow them? [Or] they follow me? I can’t help but hold my belly with laughter and say ‘I use my own method’.18 Daoji, ‘Shitao lunhua’ (‘Discussions on painting’), in Yu Jianhua (ed.), Zhongguo hualun leipian (A Compilation of Theories on Chinese Painting), Zhonghua Shuju, Hong Kong, 1956, p. 163.

In another inscription Daoji laughed at those who follow slavishly the methods of the ancient masters:

Before the ancient masters established methods, I wonder what methods they followed. After the ancient masters have established their methods, people nowadays are not allowed to go outside the methods of the ancients. As a result, for hundreds and thousands of years people could not surpass the ancients. If we [only] learn from the superficial aspects (ji, traces) of [the methods of] the ancients, and not from the mind (xin) of the ancient masters, we could not surpass the ancients. What a pity! 19 ibid., p. 165. According to James Cahill, this inscription is written on the ninth leaf of Daoji’s album, dated 1703, which is now in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 208, 238, fn. 17).

Daoji’s words echo what Wang Yuanqi says about fang (creative imitation and transformation): ‘Those who follow it must [do it] by means of shenyu [communicating in spirit]. One must not seek for outward appearances (ji)’. In another inscription Daoji says ‘To resemble by not resembling’ as if repeating what Dong Qichang had said earlier about his paradoxical approach of ‘resembling by not resembling’.20 ibid., p. 166. However, while Dong’s approach concerns the styles of the ancients, Daoji refers to scenery in nature.

In the Huayu lu Daoji complained that people only talked about following the styles, the textural strokes or the landscapes of certain masters or schools. This included painters and people who judged painting according to these standards and who forgot about their own individuality. Daoji made fun of those who mimic the ancient masters:

But then I will become the slave of so-and-so masters or schools and not making use of so-and-so schools or masters for my own use. Even if one closely resembles such painters, then he only eats their leftover [spoiled] soup or broth. What good is it to me? … Thus they only know of the ancients but not of themselves. I am what I am because I have an existence of my own. The beards and eyebrows of the ancients cannot grow on my face, nor can their lungs and bowels be placed in my body … Though on occasion my painting may happen to resemble that of so-and-so, it is he who resembles me, and not I who wilfully imitate his style.21 Coleman, p. 198; Cahill, Compelling Image, p. 215; Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’ (‘Record of conversations on paintings by Bitter Melon Monk’ (name referred to Daoji)), in Compilation of Theories, p. 149.

The freedom of which Daoji wrote is liberation from conventional methods or slavish imitation. He advocated instead, ‘This method is no method – herein lies my method’.22 This inscription is written on the final leaf of an album painted for Old Yu, a Daoist in the late 1690s, in the C. C. Wong Collection in New York (see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 216, 217, fig. 6.37). The paintings in this album are the most creative and modern of Daoji’s works (for other paintings in the album, see pp. 213–17, figs. 6.32–7, plate 11). Daoji restated this idea in the Huayu lu: ‘Thus the perfect man has no method. It does not mean that there is no method (or it is without method). No-method is the method which is the perfect method’.23 Coleman, p. 198; Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, p. 148. Also in the Huayu lu, Daoji wrote: ‘from no-method, method originates … The art of painting originates from the mind’.24 Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, p. 147.

Daoji’s no-method echoes ‘no mind’ in Chan teaching, when the mind is in its original state of purity and emptiness. Similarly, by not adhering to any particular method, painting is then a spontaneous expression of one’s original nature, uninhibited by learned conventions and respect for tradition. No-method is thus the beginning of all methods.

Daoji wanted to be free of the restrictions created by the historical framework that was established by Dong’s method of fang (creative imitation and transformation). As Dong had established the styles of old masters of the Orthodox (correct) lineage as models for creative transformation, there was potential for stifling the very creativity that he advocated. With the works of the ancients as a prototype or pre-condition for transformation, the artist had to create within an art-historical framework, which inhibited original creativity. Accessibility to collections of authentic works became essential and was usually only available to the privileged scholar-gentry class. Ironically, in Daoji’s time, instead of being a source of inspiration, knowledge of the past had become a burden, and mastering the past became as cumbersome as mastering the technical skills of the craft of painting by professional painters.25 Scholar-amateur artists took up painting as a pastime. Theoretically, their paintings were not for sale. Unlike the court academy and professional painters, the scholars were not trained in the technical skills of representation. However, since childhood they were taught calligraphy, the art of handwriting, and the use of brush and ink, which are also used in painting. For the scholar-amateur artists, painting became a vehicle for self-expression. Not having to master the technical skills of the professional painters, the scholar artists were free to express themselves, as in the art of calligraphy. Daoji was also reacting against the over-intellectualisation of painting: the concern with ideas and theories, composition and brushwork rather than a first-hand response to nature.

After mastering the styles of the different schools of painting, Daoji called for a return to nature for first-hand, direct inspiration. As we might recall, Dong had advocated a transformation of old styles, and had advised that ‘painters should first take the ancients as their teachers, and then take natural creation (zaowu) as their teacher’.26 Cahill, Compelling Image, p. 215. Dong also made distinctions between painting and natural scenery: ‘Painting is no equal to [real] mountains and streams for the wonder of scenery; but mountains and streams are no equal to painting for the sheer marvels of brush and ink’ (see Ho Wai-kam, ‘Tung Ch’i-ch’ang’s new Orthodoxy and the Southern school theory’, in C. F. Murck (ed.), Artists and Tradition, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1976, pp.122–3).

Daoji spoke of painting as spontaneous and natural in its creation:

To put it briefly: when one’s purpose [or conception] is activated, then one’s feelings are stirred. When the feelings are stirred, a [creative] force arises; and when that force arises, it is manifested as rules and order. The fruition [of this process] never goes beyond the original perception, but has the potential for inexhaustible change.27 Cahill, Compelling Image, p. 207.

In supporting a return to the direct interaction and experience of nature without seeming to theorise it away, Daoji commented: ‘Mountains and streams compel me to speak for them. Mountains and streams emerge from me and I emerge from Mountains and streams. I thoroughly investigate strange peaks, making rough sketches. Mountains, streams and I meet in spirit and become one’.28 Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, p. 153. The literal translation is ‘Mountains and streams emerge (tuo) from the womb (tai) of me and I emerge from the womb of mountains and streams’. Coleman gives a literal translation on the last sentence of the Chinese text: ‘I meet on a spiritual level and mingle together without trace’ (see Coleman, p. 126). In his other writings on painting, Daoji goes to great lengths to talk about mountains and streams, natural scenery, the seasons, clouds and mists. His involvement with nature is also demonstrated by his paintings; for example, Waterfall of Mt Lu, which was inspired by the actual place and the landscapes of Guo Xi, a Northern Song artist of the eleventh century (see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 207–9; Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, pp. 147–162; ‘Shitao lunhua’, pp. 163–8; Coleman. By contrast, Wang Yuanqi in his writings and paintings tended to be more intellectual, although he discussed landscape in terms of the metaphysical aspects of life force (qi), the order of the universe (li) and ‘dragon veins’ (lungmo), the underlying dynamic currents of life force (qi ) in nature (see Pang, ‘Transmission and transformation’). By becoming one with nature, the artist creates as nature does. In the Huayu lu, Daoji related painting to poetry and to Chan in the following statement: ‘Painting is the idea (yi) within poetry. Is it not poetry the Chan in painting?’29 Daoji ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, p. 157. For a freer translation, see Coleman, p. 14: ‘Following this one will understand that painting reveals the ideas of poetry and poetry is the Zen of painting’.

Dr Mae Anna Pang is Senior Curator of Asian Art, NGV (in 2007)

Notes

Unless otherwise noted, all translations are by the author.

1       Daoji or Shitao: The original secular name of the artist was Zhu Ruoji, but he has been called Daoji by writers since the early eighteenth century. He has never used this name himself either in signatures or in seals. The names that the artist used were Yuanji or Shitao, which appear in his seals. However, the artist is commonly known as Daoji in publications outside China (see J. Cahill, The Compelling Image, Nature and Style in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Painting, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, 1982, p. 237; on the life and works of Daiji or Shitao, see Cahill, pp. 184–225; J. Hay, Shitao, Painting and Modernity in Early Quing China, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2001).

2       Buddhism originated in India in the sixth century AD. The meditative school of Buddhism originated in China in the sixth century and reached Japan in the seventh century. It is now commonly known in the West as Zen Buddhism. The word for meditation is Dhyana in Sanskrit, Chan in Chinese and Zen in Japanese (see M. A. Pang, The Art of Zen from the Asian Collection, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2004).

3       For a detailed discussion of these paintings, see Pang, ‘Transmission and transformation: The art of imitation in Wang Yuanqi’s Fuchun Mountains scroll’, in  I. Zdanowicz (ed.), Art Bulletin of Victoria, 41, NGV, Melbourne, 2001, pp. 19–28; Pang, Mountains and Streams, NGV, Melbourne, 2006, pp. 61–5; see also Hay, pp. 128–9,  fig. 74.

4       The other members were his friend Wang Jian (1598–1677), a scholar-amateur artist, his grandson Wang Yuanqi and Wang Hui (1632–1717), a professional painter. For the Orthodox school, see R. Whitfield, In Pursuit of Antiquity: Chinese Paintings of the Ming and Ch’ing Dynasties from the Mr. and Mrs. Earl Morse Collection, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1969.

5       The episode, which triggered the division of the Northern and Southern schools of Chan Buddhism, concerned the selection of the sixth patriarch. In the seventh century, when it was time to choose a successor, the fifth patriarch, Hongren, announced that he would choose the one who had submitted the best poem expressing his understanding of Buddhism.


 

During the night, the learned monk Shenxiu, from the north, posted the following lines in the corridor near the Patriarch’s quarters:


The body is the Bodhi Tree;


The mind like a bright mirror standing,


Take care to wipe it all the time,


And allow no dust to cling.

 

On the following day, a poem by the monk Huineng, from the south, appeared beside  the first:


There never was a Bodhi Tree,


Nor bright mirror standing.


Fundamentally, not one thing exists,


So where is the dust to cling?

 

Although illiterate, Huineng, who revealed a fundamental understanding of Buddhism in his verse, was chosen by Hongren as his successor and became the sixth patriarch. To Huineng the mind is not a tangible entity or object like a mirror. Enlightenment has to be a sudden and complete awakening to one’s original or true nature (‘no mind’) that is fundamentally empty, clear and pure. The school founded by Shenxiu from the north became known as the Northern school of gradual enlightenment. The school founded by Huineng from the south became known as the Southern school of sudden enlightenment (see A. W. Watts, The Way of Zen, Pantheon, New York, 1957,  pp. 111–13).

6       For Huang Gongwang and a full illustration of his Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, 1347–50, see Cahill, Hills beyond a River: Chinese Painting of the Yuan Dynasty, 1279–1368, New York, 1976, pp. 85–113; Pang, ‘Transmission and transformation’,  pp. 20–2. This handscroll was once in Dong Qichang’s art collection and Dong had made copies of it (see Pang, p. 22).

7       See Wang Yuanqi, ‘Lutai tihua gao’, in Deng Shi & Huang Binhong (eds), Meishu congshu (1912–36), vol. 1, pt 2, Taipei, 1960, pp. 26–7.

8       ibid.

9       For Daoji or Shitao, see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 184–225; Hay, Shitao, Painting and Modernity in Early Qing China. For Badra and his paintings in the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria, see Pang, ‘Zhu Da, the Mad Monk Painter’, in S. Dean (ed.), Art Bulletin of Victoria, no. 25, NGV, Melbourne, 1985, pp. 41–61.

10     In spite of the sudden success of 1644, the Manchu conquest of China took another forty years to complete. This was finally achieved in 1683 by Kangxi (1654–1722), who was the second Qing emperor to reign in Beijing. Kangxi was one of the great rulers in Chinese history. He inherited the throne at the age of eight and assumed absolute control of the Qing Government at the age of fourteen. The Kangxi emperor was brilliant at ruling in an imperial style acceptable to both his Manchu and his Chinese subjects. Almost as a public relations exercise, he made several southern tours to establish cultural contacts with the scholar and landed-gentry class in the Yangtze River region.

11     Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 196, 200, 202; Hay, pp. 326, 327.

12     Hay, p. 327.

13     Wang Yuanqi has written the following short inscription on the painting: ‘Litai (Wang’s other name) has added [onto the painting] the rocks on the hills’. This suggests that Daoji painted the bamboo and orchids first and Wang Yuanqi the rocks afterwards, but it looks as if Wang Yuanqi had painted the rocks first and then Daoji painted the bamboo later. On the other hand, the bamboo and orchids could stand on their own as a completed painting, whereas the rocks could not. Moreover, the placement of the rocks depends very much on the composition of the bamboo and orchids. It seems that the two artists must have discussed the composition of the painting before they proceeded. However, Shi Shouqian thinks that the two artists did not meet and that the painting was done by them at different times (see Shi Shouqian, ‘Shitao, Wang Yuanqi hezuo lanzhu de wenti’ (‘The questions surrounding the painting of orchid and bamboo, a joint work by Shitao and Wang Yuanqi’); ‘Fengge yu shibian’ (‘The changes in style’) in Zhongguo huihuashi lunji (A Collection of Essays on the History of Chinese Painting), Taipei, 1995, pp. 341–59).

14     Hay, pp. 328–9.

15     A landscape painting by Daoji, Painting at the studio window, in a private collection shows greater similarities to Dong Qichang’s trees, composite rock formations and brushwork. It looks like an actual copy of Dong’s landscape in the form of an album leaf (see Hay, p. 43, fig. 24).

16     This landscape is painted in ink and pigment and is at the height of Wang’s artistic development (for illustrations, see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp.194–5, fig. 6.8; Whitfield, cat. no. 31).

17     It is generally held that the Huayu lu (Record of Conversations on Paintings) was written in about 1700 and the revised version of this text, Hua pu (Treatise on Painting), was printed in 1710. At some time between 1705 and 1707, Daoji completed the manuscript of the Hua pu. The earliest appearance of Daoji’s treatise on painting is written on a fan, dated around 1697–98 (see Hay, pp. 272, 329, 330; for a translation of the Hua pu, see E. J. Coleman, Philosophy of Painting by Shih-tao, A Translation and Exposition of his Hua-p’u (Treatise on the Philosophy of Painting), Moutaon, The Hague, 1978).

18     Daoji, ‘Shitao lunhua’ (‘Discussions on painting’), in Yu Jianhua (ed.), Zhongguo hualun leipian (A Compilation of Theories on Chinese Painting), Zhonghua Shuju, Hong Kong, 1956, p. 163.

19     ibid., p. 165. According to James Cahill, this inscription is written on the ninth leaf of Daoji’s album, dated 1703, which is now in the collection of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 208, 238, fn. 17).

20     ibid., p. 166.

21     Coleman, p. 198; Cahill, Compelling Image, p. 215; Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’ (‘Record of conversations on paintings by Bitter Melon Monk’ (name referred to Daoji)), in Compilation of Theories, p. 149.

22     This inscription is written on the final leaf of an album painted for Old Yu, a Daoist in the late 1690s, in the C. C. Wong Collection in New York (see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 216, 217, fig. 6.37). The paintings in this album are the most creative and modern of Daoji’s works (for other paintings in the album, see pp. 213–17, figs. 6.32–7, plate 11).

23     Coleman, p. 198; Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, p. 148.

24     Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, p. 147.

25     Scholar-amateur artists took up painting as a pastime. Theoretically, their paintings were not for sale. Unlike the court academy and professional painters, the scholars were not trained in the technical skills of representation. However, since childhood they were taught calligraphy, the art of handwriting, and the use of brush and ink, which are also used in painting. For the scholar-amateur artists, painting became a vehicle for self-expression. Not having to master the technical skills of the professional painters, the scholar artists were free to express themselves, as in the art of calligraphy

26     Cahill, Compelling Image, p. 215. Dong also made distinctions between painting and natural scenery: ‘Painting is no equal to [real] mountains and streams for the wonder of scenery; but mountains and streams are no equal to painting for the sheer marvels of brush and ink’ (see Ho Wai-kam, ‘Tung Ch’i-ch’ang’s new Orthodoxy and the Southern school theory’, in C. F. Murck (ed.), Artists and Tradition, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1976, pp.122–3).

27     Cahill, Compelling Image, p. 207.

28     Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, p. 153. The literal translation is ‘Mountains and streams emerge (tuo) from the womb (tai) of me and I emerge from the womb of mountains and streams’. Coleman gives a literal translation on the last sentence of the Chinese text: ‘I meet on a spiritual level and mingle together without trace’ (see Coleman, p. 126). In his other writings on painting, Daoji goes to great lengths to talk about mountains and streams, natural scenery, the seasons, clouds and mists. His involvement with nature is also demonstrated by his paintings; for example, Waterfall of Mt Lu, which was inspired by the actual place and the landscapes of Guo Xi, a Northern Song artist of the eleventh century (see Cahill, Compelling Image, pp. 207–9; Daoji, ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, pp. 147–162; ‘Shitao lunhua’, pp. 163–8; Coleman. By contrast, Wang Yuanqi in his writings and paintings tended to be more intellectual, although he discussed landscape in terms of the metaphysical aspects of life force (qi), the order of the universe (li) and ‘dragon veins’ (lungmo), the underlying dynamic currents of life force (qi ) in nature (see Pang, ‘Transmission and transformation’).

29     Daoji ‘Kugua huoshang huayu lu’, p. 157. For a freer translation, see Coleman, p. 14: ‘Following this one will understand that painting reveals the ideas of poetry and poetry is the Zen of painting’