VOLUME 1, No.6 JOURNAL September-October 2000
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Date: 25 September 2000
Time: 2:00-4:30PM
Place: China Institute, 125 65th Street, New York City
Minutes: Matthew Flannery
Member Attending: Stephen Dydo, Willow Hai Chang, Matthew Flannery, Shida Kuo, Yuan Jung-Ping

Events: Alan has published an account of the practice and role of retreat among the literati aristocracy through the sixth century. The particulars: Alan J. Berkowitz Patterns of Disengagement: The Practice and Portrayal of Reclusion in Early Medieval China Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000 296 pp., hardbound, $55.00 ISBN: 0-8047-3603.0

The book concerns the rationale, practice, and portrayal of reclusion in China from the earliest times through the sixth century, by which time reclusion largely acquired its enduring character. Essentially, the touchstone of the man in reclusion was conduct and personal integrity that was manifested in the unflinching eschewal of official position. It was his outsider's stance that constituted the cause for public acclaim of the recluse: men in reclusion forwent opportunities for worldly success and a role in the central government, but they did not surrender their integrity nor compromise their resolve, mettle, or moral and personal values in the face of adversity, threat, or temptation. The book treats the practice of reclusion and individual practitioners within the social, political, intellectual, religious, and literary contexts of the times. It also treats the topos ubiquitous in Chinese culture of " the recluse, " who classically resided quiet and unperturbed in his rustic dwelling amid a benign wilderness.

Alan notes that little is said in his work of the artistic, including musical, aspects of the recluse, and adds that " I must make up for this great lapse in the future.

The Meeting: C. C. Wang Discusses the Art of Painting

Mr. C.C. Wang discusses the art of painting at the China Institute.
It centered on a discussion of Chinese painting by Wang Ch'i-ch'ien 王己千(C. C. Wang). Mr. Wang is equally noted for excelling in three fields related to painting. He is a connoisseur of early painting (especially, the Tang through Yuan periods, 960-1368), a collector of paintings from many periods, and a landscape painter who excels both at traditional brushwork and at extending that tradition into new arenas. Beyond painting, his calligraphy is also sought and collected.

In painting, he is especially known for basing the brushwork of traditional landscape painting on aleatoric elements created by pretreating the paper. For example, sometimes he impresses papers with inked planks to create wood patterns, or he crumples them into balls and dips their projecting angles into pooled ink. The resulting lines, blots, and patterns are then converted into landscapes by adding traditional elements trees, huts, rocks, varieties of landscape texture strokes in ink or color. To color such broad areas as mountains and rivers or add sunsets, he usually adds washes of light color.

Jung-Ping and Mr. C.C. Wang at the China Institute.
Mr, Wang, with occasional interpretation assistance from his daughter Wang Xiange王嫻歌, began by saying that an artist is not an expert on the academics of painting but perhaps may contribute some idea of what painting is about. After 50 or 60 years in the art, he has learned that the viewpoint of those who do and do not know about painting is slightly different. He noted that, while the Qin Society is about music, painting is nothing other than visual music.

The purpose of painting in its formative years was to reproduce reality. This was generally true in east and west: the formative steps of painting are to bring real forms under the control of artistic tools. In the west, however, reality long remained the principle criterion by which the quality and social acceptability of painting was judged. The aim was to capture the essence of a thing by portraying its outward form as exactly as possible. Even in the east, this was true of some schools of painting, such as the academic or courtly style that flourished under Hui-tsung 徽宗 (r. 1101- 1126) of the Northern Sung (960-1126). But in other schools of eastern painting, there was less interest in literal realism.

Fan Kuan 范寬(early eleventh century), Quo XI 郭熙(late eleventh century), and Li Tang 李唐(early twelfth century) 豀山行旅圖 Traveling among mountains and streams" 早春圖 "Early Spring" 萬壑松風圖 "Pine Winds in Ten Thousand Valleys"
Even as eastern art also strove for realism, it modified this trend by the appreciation of calligraphy and music for the abstract line, and, even as painting remained fundamentally based in realism, abstraction became one of its important values. Eastern painting, he noted, was like opera: its sets, shallow acting space, and distinctive singing style were suggestive of reality without replicating it exactly, while western painting was more like drama, with its often more realistic sets and spoken lines. While east and west began from the viewpoint of realism, by the Northern Sung, the abstraction of calligraphy becomes observable in eastern painting, whereas western painting did not begin to investigate this approach until the nineteenth century.

Eastern figure painting before the Tang did not reach the technical perfection eventually achieved in the classical ancient west, but the linear, calligraphic expression of its linework was sufficient to capture emotional expression of a figure. With line important, so the brush was important. East and west, brushes and strokework were different. In eastern painting, brushwork became the criterion for judging the quality of a painting, for distinguishing between good and bad painting as well as authentic and inauthentic paintings. If one can distinguish the type and style of brushwork, one can determine the authenticity of a painting based on its brushwork. Western paintings are more heavily worked over, with paint added in layers, which makes the brushwork more difficult to analyze. In eastern painting, where strokes are laid down individually with little correction or overpainting, strokes stand clear before the connoisseur's eye, making it relatively easy to authenticate a painting.

Ni Can, 倪瓚(1301 -1374) The Rung Xi Studio 容膝齋(1372)
Mr. Wang said he is frequently approached by westerners regarding his opinion of the authenticity of a painting. Still, they wonder how he can authenticate a painting while they cannot and tend to lose confidence in his judgment. The key is that one must do painting to understand it. Looking at a painting is like going to the opera: one must listen to the vocal quality, not just the storyline. That is how anyone can tell, just from a " Hello, " who is speaking if they know that person well. And if faking a single "hello " is easy, it is much harder to fake an entire conversation or a painting.

Chinese art theory is that great artists have greater characters, and hence they have the more distinctive styles. Ni Can's 倪瓚(1301-1374) work, for example, is so simple, yet it says everything. A rock, a tree, and a hut are all that is needed to express one's ideas, emotions, talent. A painting is a reflection of an artist: it sings his song. If his work looks too much like that of others, then the individual is not a great artist. Hence, Mr. Wang concluded, it is this distinctiveness, especially among great artists, that allows their work to be judged and authenticated by connoisseurs.

Mr. Wang replied that musical sounds can describe a brook or a bird, as can the brushstrokes of a painting...... Wang Xiange (right)
Those attending had some questions. Stephen noted that painting, like calligraphy, includes a time element in the process of painting, the path of the brush. Is this what Mr. Wang meant by the relationship between music and painting? Mr. Wang replied that musical sounds can describe a brook or a bird, as can the brushstrokes of a painting. But the abstract qualities of music are like those of painting, and these are the heart of the matter. A bird and a brook, a rock and a tree do not mean anything: they are the vehicle for the abstract expression of the brushwork. An artist does not describe a mountain. He describes its beauty and spirit. Western abstraction is so obvious that it is easily seen, but in the east it is harder to detect it hides behind the things it describes, just as, in calligraphy, the brushwork hides behind a calligraphy's literary message, which tends to distract its viewers from its graphic qualities. But it is precisely in the abstract quality of the brushwork that the essence and value of painting and calligraphy reside.

Hui-tsung 徽宗(r. 1101-1126) "Listening to the Qin."聽琴圖
Jung-Ping asked whether the three scrolls that Mr. Wang had had hung across the wall of the room represented different schools of painting. Mr. Wang replied that all three were reproductions of Northern Sung paintings by different artists and did so much not represent different schools as the different personal styles of their three artists, styles that eventually became models for later artists. The three artists represented. Fan Kuan 范寬(early eleventh century), Guo Xi 郭熙(late eleventh century), and Li Tang 李唐(early twelfth century), all used variations in brushwork to express their various personalities. Hence, all three scrolls show painted mountains with their own personalities, mountains that look neither real nor like each other.

Stephen played "Ping Sha Lo Yen" ("Wild Geese Descending to Sandy Shores").
Qin Performance:
After Mr. Wang's talk, Stephen played "Ping Shao Lo Yan" 平沙落雁( "Wild Geese Descending to Sandy Shores"). "Ping Shao Lo Yan" is extant in more than 30 variants which usually have five, seven, or ten sections. Its earliest score is found in the qin manual Gu Yin Zheng Zong 古音正宗(1634). Jung-Ping then played two pieces, "Mei Hua San Nung" 梅花三弄(" Three Variations on the Plum Blossoms o") and "Pu 'an Zho" 普庵咒("Chant of Pu'an"). Of the two themes in "Mei Hua San Nung," the first is repeated three times in successively higher registers; hence the title. Said to date in its original form from the Qin and Sui dynasties, it was arranged for qin in the Tang by Yan Shigu 顏師古. "Pu'an Zho" is first found in the San Jiao Tong Sheng Pu 三教同聲 of 1592. It purports to record a chant by Pu'an, a Buddhist monk.

Members: Alex Chao, Stephen Dydo, Matthew Flannery, Willow Hai, Shida Kuo, Bo Lawergren, Gopal Sukhu, Yuan Jung-Ping

Copyright © 2002 New York Qin Society. All rights reserved.