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  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Fruit and mushrooms - detail of inscription
    Fan painting - Fruit and mushrooms - detail of inscription by Zhou Xian (1820-1875)

    Fruited branch and mushrooms, inscription in upper left corner. Zhou Xian is another artist that is well represented in modern literature. Like so many of the others in the collection, Zhou lived through the difficult years of the Taiping rebellion and ended up in Shanghai, forsaking an official career. The technique used for leaves and fruit, as well as the mushrooms, can be compared with that used by Yao Yuanzhi. These different elements were done quickly, and the successful outcome is due to long practice. Andrews illustrates a very similar technique in a fan painting of wisteria.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Scholar in nature - detail of scholar figure
    Fan painting - Scholar in nature - detail of scholar figure by Wu Guxiang (1843-1903)

    Scholars seated on a rock beneath a pine tree. This subject has been repeated ten thousand times over the centuries: the solitary scholar communing with nature, with trees and water about him. One distinctive feature here is the scholar's hat, which suggests a Korean costume. Again, the colophon may contain some answers.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of seal
    Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of seal by Yu, the younger [?]

    Eleven uneven lines of running script, alternating between lines of seven to eight characters and lines of three characters. After this is a block of smaller characters, seven lines with varying number of characters each. The fourth (raised) contains the dedication and the last line the date and signature. The writer has not been identified. The character di, which I have translated as "younger person," can have several meanings, all indicating a person of lower status. In a strict sense it can mean "younger brother," but it could also mean "follower" "religious follower," or just "person of lower status." The style of the script is close to that of the Song artist Su Shi, mentioned frequently in these fans. A careful translation of the fan may reveal some clues to support or refute this assumption.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Yang [?]

    Sixteen lines of running script, alternating between full lines of six to seven characters and shorter lines of three characters. At the end are two additional lines in the same script with the date and dedication. At the end is a single line with the signature in four characters. The writer gives a pen name, Qiu ?, and then his family name Yang. The given name (the last character) is unclear. As usual, the date could be sixty years earlier or later, depending on the life span of the artist.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Xu Sangeng (1826-1890)

    Excerpts from the Han dynasty stele from Jizhou dealing with Zhang Yuan. Twelve double lines followed by title, date, dedication and signature. Not much information is recorded on Xu Sangeng, and the lack of any mention of an official career means that he must have functioned as a professional artist. Nevertheless, his reputation as a seal carver and his skill in calligraphy would have earned him entry into the higher levels of society. Despite the lacunae on events in his personal life, he was a very well respected artist, especially in the area of seal carving. His reputation extended to Japan, and Japanese artists visited him and sought to study under him. His study of rubbings of monuments from the Han and Six Dynasties periods allowed him to explore the creative moments of early calligraphy, before the styles of Wang Xizhi dominated the calligraphic tradition. He was also aware of other Qing artists, and toward the middle of his career was influenced by Deng Shiru (1743-1805). This fan is a good example of his style. Although the model that he mentions in his title has not been located, the writing exemplifies his style. He plays with endings, pushing and lifting the brush to modulate the line, extending and compacting the structure of characters to find new arrangements of the parts. This is one of the better pieces of calligraphy in the collection.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Zhang Baoci (act. third quarter of 19th century)

    Five double lines followed by a conclusion and date, dedication and signature. Each line has twelve characters. Written in a running script on light brown paper. Zhang Baoci, zi Jingtang, was from Changshu in Jiangsu province and was known for his calligraphy. Hopefully examples of his work will turn up in other collections. This particular example exhibits a hesitancy in execution and heaviness in line that is not characteristic of the best calligraphy. This may be due to the model that the writer had studied. One thinks of the late Han calligrapher Zhang Zhi, whose work only exits in such copies. If one studied Zhang Zhi, one had to rely on copies made from copies, many times removed from the original. These were not able to transmit the energy of the brush strokes or even the links between strokes.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Yu, the younger [?]

    Eleven uneven lines of running script, alternating between lines of seven to eight characters and lines of three characters. After this is a block of smaller characters, seven lines with varying number of characters each. The fourth (raised) contains the dedication and the last line the date and signature. The writer has not been identified. The character di, which I have translated as "younger person," can have several meanings, all indicating a person of lower status. In a strict sense it can mean "younger brother," but it could also mean "follower" "religious follower," or just "person of lower status." The style of the script is close to that of the Song artist Su Shi, mentioned frequently in these fans. A careful translation of the fan may reveal some clues to support or refute this assumption.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Ye Yanlan (act. 1861-1908)

    Ten different inscriptions copied from Zhou, Qin and Han bronzes, with transciptions into regular script and short comments. Date and signature are at the end at far left.Ye Yanlan was active in the late nineteenth century in the Tongzhi and Guangxu eras (1861-1908), and this date falls neatly into that time. He was a native of Guangdong province, far in the South of China, and further research will have to determine whether he stayed there or had moved north into the Yangtze region. His entry in a dictionary notes his proficiency in all the standard script types, and this fan suggests that he was also a scholar of early epigraphy. This fan illustrates the antiquarian interest many scholars had in epigraphy, especially as it appeared on bronzes that were cast by the aristocracy of the earliest dynasties. At this time in the nineteenth century, the discoveries of the royal burials of the Shang dynasty at Anyang were half a century away, and although traditional histories had record of this dynasty, it was still part myth in Ye's day. For Confucius, the early kings and aristocracy of the Zhou were paragons of filial piety, and deciphering their words as they appeared on their ritual implements carried the same import as that of western scholars who investigate the Dead Sea scrolls and other early fragments of scripture. The inscriptions cover some thousand years, and some, according to Ye, are as late as the Han. In Chinese terms, this calligraphy would be in the category of "Bronze and Stone Writing" (Jinshi wen), as opposed to one of the four major script types seen on most of the fans with calligraphy. Such studies had a long history, going back into the Song dynasty, and this fan is evidence for the continuation of these traditions into the late Qing. Since Ye provides both the antique bronze form and its equivalent in regular script, students could note these comparisons and do research on similar forms in other bronzes.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Yang Yisun (1812-1881)

    Three pages from the Shan hai jing (Classic on Mountains and Oceans). Six double lines of twelve characters each followed by a title, written in a regular/running script. Yang Yisun is one of the select calligraphers included in the monumental dictionary of calligraphers published in 1989. He was a zhuren (provincial graduate) in 1843 and served in several minor positions in the government. He achieved no little fame in his lifetime through his calligraphy, and influenced artists of the next generation. Although Yisun was known for his clerical and seal scripts, this fan is written in the more conventional regular-running script. Despite this, one senses in each individual character a search for new structure within the familiar. Many tried for this sort of innovation and ended up with structures that did not hold together. Here, in the hand of an artist that spent so much time with the study of the structure of the large seal script characters, it succeeds.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Scholar in nature - detail of inscription
    Fan painting - Scholar in nature - detail of inscription by Wu Guxiang (1843-1903)

    Scholars seated on a rock beneath a pine tree. This subject has been repeated ten thousand times over the centuries: the solitary scholar communing with nature, with trees and water about him. One distinctive feature here is the scholar's hat, which suggests a Korean costume. Again, the colophon may contain some answers.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Lady Tanchen (act. late 19th century)

    Transcription on the "Loshen Fu" (Ode on the Nymph of the Lo River). There are fifty six lines alternating between lines of eighteen and ten characters (in two instances, two short and two long lines are together.) The characters are written in a tiny regular script,two lines with the dedication, date and signature are at the far left. There is no other record of this artist. Although dated within the sixty-year cycle, the specific year cannot be settled until someone uncovers more information on the life span of the artist. For comments on women artists and on writing such small characters, see fan #1. The text is the "Ode on the Nymph of the Lo River," written by Cao Zhi (Cao Zijian) who lived from 192-232. This is a famous literary piece, often illustrated by artists over the centuries. Students would find this an interesting topic for an essay.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Scattered Vegetables - detail of inscription
    Fan painting - Scattered Vegetables - detail of inscription by Yao Yuanzhi (1776-1852)

    Eggplant, gourds, radishes, turnips and other vegetables, lie in an unordered composition on a surface. Some are painted in an ink outline, some with colored washes, some with both. Inscription is found on right side of fan. The ups and down of Yao's career were in many ways typical of the careers of civil servants in these difficult years. By attaining the jinshi degree in 1805, he became one of the select few officials who would be responsible for governing the empire. It also gave him access to the highest social circles and the very best collections of painting and calligraphy. The seal with the name "Southern Studio" probably refers to the prestigious appointment Yao received to attend the Jiaqing emperor in his Southern Studio in 1809. This same seal appears on one of a pair of calligraphic scrolls in another collection. In this work he credits the painter Zhu Angzhi for inspiring his calligraphy, while elsewhere it is recorded that Zhu Ben was also a teacher. These two were popular artists in the northern capital, and so Yao is one of the few artists in the collection who seemed to have been aware of trends outside the Yangtze River area. Eggplant, gourds, radishes, turnips and other vegetables, lie in an unordered composition on a surface. Some are painted in an ink outline, some with colored washes, some with both. The loose "boneless" treatment of the vegetables, as well as the lack of structure in the calligraphy, seem at odds with the carefully constructed characters for which he was well-known, Although undated, the work was certainly done in the first half of the century, after his appointment to the Southern Studio.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Scattered Vegetables - detail of seal
    Fan painting - Scattered Vegetables - detail of seal by Yao Yuanzhi (1776-1852)

    Eggplant, gourds, radishes, turnips and other vegetables, lie in an unordered composition on a surface. Some are painted in an ink outline, some with colored washes, some with both. Detail of seal at base of inscription on right of fan. The ups and down of Yao's career were in many ways typical of the careers of civil servants in these difficult years. By attaining the jinshi degree in 1805, he became one of the select few officials who would be responsible for governing the empire. It also gave him access to the highest social circles and the very best collections of painting and calligraphy. The seal with the name "Southern Studio" probably refers to the prestigious appointment Yao received to attend the Jiaqing emperor in his Southern Studio in 1809. This same seal appears on one of a pair of calligraphic scrolls in another collection. In this work he credits the painter Zhu Angzhi for inspiring his calligraphy, while elsewhere it is recorded that Zhu Ben was also a teacher. These two were popular artists in the northern capital, and so Yao is one of the few artists in the collection who seemed to have been aware of trends outside the Yangtze River area. Eggplant, gourds, radishes, turnips and other vegetables, lie in an unordered composition on a surface. Some are painted in an ink outline, some with colored washes, some with both. The loose "boneless" treatment of the vegetables, as well as the lack of structure in the calligraphy, seem at odds with the carefully constructed characters for which he was well-known, Although undated, the work was certainly done in the first half of the century, after his appointment to the Southern Studio.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Monkey in a landscape, with insects -detail of inscription
    Fan painting - Monkey in a landscape, with insects -detail of inscription by Gu Yun (1835-1896)

    A pair of monkeys on the rock silhouetted against the distant mountains. Even though Gu Yun was a prolific artist, there is no clear explanation as to why there are so many of his works in this collection. This is an unusual subject, and the explanation probably lies in the colophon, not yet translated. Gu Yun's classical training is evident in the foreground rocks and trees. The composition works well, with the pair of monkeys on the rock silhouetted against the distant mountains.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Monkey in a landscape, with insects -detail
    Fan painting - Monkey in a landscape, with insects -detail by Gu Yun (1835-1896)

    A pair of monkeys on the rock silhouetted against the distant mountains. Detail shows monkey in the tree. Even though Gu Yun was a prolific artist, there is no clear explanation as to why there are so many of his works in this collection. This is an unusual subject, and the explanation probably lies in the colophon, not yet translated. Gu Yun's classical training is evident in the foreground rocks and trees. The composition works well, with the pair of monkeys on the rock silhouetted against the distant mountains.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of signature and seal.
    Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of signature and seal. by Chen Xi

    Ten uneven lines of regular/running calligraphy, alternating between lines of six and two characters/ After this is a block of text with six lines in smaller characters of the same type. The last two lines contain the dedication, date and signature. Chen Xi is identified through his pen name, Lianting. In addition to calligraphy, he painted portraits, plum blossoms and bamboo. Sirén says that he was a pupil of Liang Tongshu (1723-1815), a well-known late eighteenth century calligrapher. Liang Tongshu lived a long life, and it is quite possible that a student of his was already active in 1770, but equally possible that a student that he took on late in life could have survived him by fifteen years, so two possible dates are given. The dedication, including the standard phrase "…XX sanxiong daren yashu" (for the elegant perusal of the honored XX third brother) is common in the nineteenth century, but far less so in the eighteenth. This is not an ironclad rule, but perhaps puts slightly more weight on the later date. Whatever the date, this fan is one of the oldest in the collection. It does have a good deal of wear, and some characters are abraded to the point of invisibility. Liang Tongshu's calligraphy is certainly more impressive than this example, but one sees here some of the balance between freedom of brush and tightness of structure for which Tongshu was famous. Some characters, however, fall below this bar. In a generation, one might possibly have a specialized exhibition on Liang Tongshu, his circle and his students.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Gong Bo

    Thirteen double lines in running script on slightly darkened paper, followed by date, dedication and signature. The name of the writer has not been found in a standard source, but the clearly written characters and standard formula for the signature leaves no doubt as to the name. The writing is by an accomplished hand, in a standard style. The writing begins, "Officials of the Han dynasty said…" The content could then refer back to that same era when so many of the great models of calligraphy were created.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Wan Jixun

    88 lines in a pattern of two long and two short lines of tiny regular script. Dedication, date and signature in last two lines. No further information on this writer was found. As stated elsewhere, the ability to write in such small, almost microscopic, characters is as much a testament to the writer's eyesight, patience, and technical skill as to his artistry. Further work on the subject of the fan is in order.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Unknown

    Three separate texts by three different writers. The middle text mentions a Han stele, either the Liqi Bei or the equally famous Shichen Bei. None of the writers have been identified. The middle inscription mentions the "Han Minister of Lu…at the Confucian Temple." The characters do not equate absolutely with the standard titles of the stele mentioned above, but they do refer to the same temple and same title as given in the inscriptions for those stele. The script used in the middle inscription is the clerical script used in those famous monuments.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of script
    Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of script by Yu, the younger [?]

    Eleven uneven lines of running script, alternating between lines of seven to eight characters and lines of three characters. After this is a block of smaller characters, seven lines with varying number of characters each. The fourth (raised) contains the dedication and the last line the date and signature. Detail of signature. The writer has not been identified. The character di, which I have translated as "younger person," can have several meanings, all indicating a person of lower status. In a strict sense it can mean "younger brother," but it could also mean "follower" "religious follower," or just "person of lower status." The style of the script is close to that of the Song artist Su Shi, mentioned frequently in these fans. A careful translation of the fan may reveal some clues to support or refute this assumption.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy
    Fan painting - Calligraphy by Zhao Tong (act. late 19th century)

    Twelve lines of clercial script, with four characters the line. Following this is a single line of smaller characters with the dedication and signature. Originally from the Hangzhou area, Zhao Tong, zi Baichi, was known for his seal and clerical scripts . In another published album of prunus flowers dated 1861, he mentions the earlier Qing masters Chen Hongshou and Jin Nong as models for his painting. Jin Nong developed a blocky clerical script modeled after Han dynasty sources, and while Zhao Tong would have been aware of his calligraphy, many other models were available to him through collections of rubbings (copies) of early calligraphy. In this example, Zhao emphasizes the horizontal structure of each character, and emphasizes one or two selected strokes in each character by modulating the width of the stroke as it nears its termination. This type of structure is particularly close to Han dynasty stele such as the Liqi bei and the Caoquan bei.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy on round fan
    Fan painting - Calligraphy on round fan by Lu [?]

    Eight lines of running script; two lines with the date and dedication. The writer has not been identified. The date could be 60 years later. The round format is not that common in the collection. Round or slightly oval fans are a much older form of fan, and examples with the calligraphy of Song Emperors survive in modern collections. The writing, in a fluid running script, is also suggestive of that era.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of script
    Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of script by Wu Xizai (1799-1870)

    Calligraphy: Thirteen lines of running script, alternating between long and short lines. After these lines are six more, in much the same calligraphy, but with smaller characters, that contain the dedication and signature. Detail is of signature and seal. Wu Xizai's career mirrored that of a number of well-educated and talented men of his generation whose success and aspirations were affected by the epochal political events of his time, most notably the Taiping Rebellion, which laid waste the center of China during the mid-century. Originally from Yangzhou, a city with a tragic past but a lively artistic life in the mid-Qing, he came from a middle-class family-his father made a living as a fortune teller and physiognomist-but was recognized as a promising scholar and appointed as a shengyuan or "flourishing talent." As early as 1819, as a very young man, he had participated in the editing of the writings of his teacher Bao Shichen (1775-1855), one of the most important calligraphers of the Qing Dynasty. Wu was later to name his own studio the Shi Shen Xuan (the Student of Shen's (Bao Shichen) Studio). Bao's praise of Wu's calligraphy certainly promoted this student's success. Indeed, a section of Bao Shichen's famous treatise Yizhou shuangji was written as a response to questions raised by Wu. A decade later, around 1829, he came under the influence of Deng Shiju (1743-1805), perhaps the greatest of the calligraphic innovater in the Qing. Around the mid 1830s he was in contact with Tang Yifen, whose fan painting is also in this collection, another important painter and calligrapher of the time. In 1853 he was forced to flee the city before the advancing Taiping rebels. Until 1864 he remained a refugee in Taizhou, supported by members of the upper class who admired his calligraphy and painting. In his later years, with his sight failing, he leaned even more heavily on the good graces of those he had known. Wu Yun (1811-1883), a prominent collector and benefactor, was particularly important. The artist used the name "Xizai" between the years 1848 to 1861, after which he abandoned the name to avoid the taboo of using a character in the personal name of the Tongzhi Emperor, Zaichun. Works with "Xizai" in the signature or seal can therefore be dated before 1861, which would be true of both of these examples. As noted earlier, Wu suffered reverses of his health in his later years, and it is not yet certain how many works from the last decade of his life actually exist. Because of his fame, Wu's work was forged even in his lifetime. Brown documents the history of the rise and fall of critical interest in this artist, from popularity to obscurity, and then a renewed interest after a Japanese publication of his ouvre in 1978. His work influenced major artists of the next generation such as Zhao Zhiqian and Wu Changshuo. The calligraphy here has characteristics found in published works by the artist, including an idiosyncratic approach to the structure, as if every time a character were written he had to search for a new way to put the pieces together. Sometimes this is less successful than others.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of signature and seal.
    Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of signature and seal. by Zhang Daqian (1899-1983)

    Fourteen uneven lines alternating between lines of five and lines of two characters, written in a regular-running script. The last line in slightly smaller characters contains the date and signature. From the signature, this is another work by the famous twentieth century artist Zhang Daqian. The signature here is very close to that on the other fan in the collection, and that one has the notation "man of Shu" or Sichuan, the province from which Daqian came. If this fan were to be by Daqian, it would be the latest dated work in the collection, by far. There were other artists with the pen name Daqian, but none of them were from Sichuan. Ultimately, it should be possible to compare this with other works by the artist done near that date to determine its authenticity. The calligraphic style immediately calls to mind the characters of the Song artist Huang Tingjian, who has always been an icon of the expressive possibilities of the brush. The long wavering terminations of strokes that extend beyond the normal bounds of the calligraphy were his trademark. If the date is correct, this would be the work of a younger Daqian, and one could critique the piece by noting that the expressive possibilities of Huang Tingjian's calligraphy are a bit overused here. This artist creates the long terminations whereever possible; Tingjian did it rarely, only for effect. The last line, "To wash one's ears it is not necessary to use the water from a Bodhisattva's spring" is interesting. The meaning, I would guess, is that ordinary water is as good for washing as that blessed by a deity.

  • Thumbnail for Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of script
    Fan painting - Calligraphy - detail of script by Langqing [?]

    Calligraphy: fourteen uneven lines of running script, alternating between lines of seven or eight characters and those of five characters. The last two lines contain the date and dedication. After this is the four character signature. Detail is of signature and seal. The writer remains unidentified, and the reading of the signature is very tentative. The calligraphy is very well done, using a very controlled running script in which only a few characters are linked.