Mouse position--
Viewport dimensions--
Back to Search

Create a New Label



Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng and Shitao’s Beiyou Paintings, ca. 1689
Heping Liu
| add a comment

“The Divine Class of Shitao’s Ink Landscape” (Shitao mobi shanshui shenpin 石濤墨筆山水神品)—these are the words written in the title slip on the exterior brocade of this handscroll, known to us today as Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng, a short form for its full title, Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng Prior to My Northern Journey (Liubie Wuweng xiansheng beiyou shanshui juan 留別五翁先生北游山水卷), a phrase taken directly from Shitao’s inscription toward the end of the painting. The scroll, formerly in the Wang Nan-p'ing Collection, was acquired by the Seattle Art Museum in 1997, a partial gift from Karen Wang, Wong Nan-p'ing's daughter, and partial purchase.See Richard Barnhart et al., The Jade Studio: Masterpieces of Ming and Qing Painting and Calligraphy from the Wang Nan-p’ing Collection, cat. no. 48 (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1994), 172-175.

Holding the scroll today, we can feel the weight of history and ponder the meaning of the “Divine Class,” the highest ranking in traditional Chinese art connoisseurship. Although we do not know who wrote the title slip or when it was written, it evokes a strong sense of awe for Shitao (1642–1707), who has long been considered, in James Cahill’s words, “the supreme master among the individualists, the painter with greatest breadth of vision and the finest technician” in early Qing China.Cahill, Chinese Painting (Geneva: Skira, 1960), 176. Today, Shitao is considered among the great artists in the history not only of Chinese art but also of world art. Not surprisingly, modern scholarship on the master has grown into a global phenomenon.Scholarship on Shitao has grown into an enormous industry and global phenomenon of “Shitao xue” 石濤學. Here I only mention three recent publications of extreme importance cited frequently in the present study: Jonathan Hay, Shitao: Painting and Modernity in Early Qing China (Cambridge University Press, 2001), translated by Qiu Shihua and Liu Yuzhen et al into Chinese and published by the Rock Publishing International (Taipei 2008) and by Sanlian shudian (Beijing 2010)—Hay’s book includes a valuable comprehensive (though not exhaustive) bibliography; Zhu Liangzhi朱良志, Shitao Yanjiu 石濤研究(Shitao Studies) (Beijing University Press, 2005); and Wang Shiqing汪世清, Shitao shilu 石濤詩錄(An annotated anthology of Shitao’s poems) (Hebei jiaoyu chubanshe, 2006). In addition, for an informative study of Shitao’s northern journey in Chinese, see Cui Jin 崔錦, "Shitao beixing jiqi Jinmen jiaoyou kao 石濤北行及其津門交遊考(A Study of Shitao’s northern journey and His social contacts in Jinmen [Tianjin]), Meishu shilun 13 (no. 1, 1985): 33-38; for a survey of modern scholarship from mainland China, see Zhang Changhong 張長虹, “Liushinian lai Zhongguo dalu Shitao yanjiu zongshu 六十年來中國大陸石濤研究綜述,”Meishushi yanjiu 97 (2000): 73-79. For an excellent discussion of Shitao as “an icon for modernity” in modern China and Japan, see Aida-Yuen Wong, “A New Life for Literati Painting in the Early Twentieth Century: Eastern Art and Modernity, a Transcultural Narrative?” Artibus Asiae 60, no. 2 (2000): 311-24.

The opening frontispiece of the Seattle scroll carries four large characters of calligraphy (reading from right to left while unrolling the painting in the same direction): 境與神會 (Jing yu shen hui) or “A union of scenery and spirit” written by the literati artist Wu Zhao 吳照 (1755–1811), who describes the succeeding painting as a “marvelous ink work by Shitao” (Shitao mo miao 石濤墨妙).

Unrolling the scroll from right to left,For an informative discussion of the handscroll format in Chinese painting, see Jerome Silbergeld, Chinese Painting Style: Media, methods, and Principles of Form (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982. the first half of the landscape composition opens abruptly with a high mountain range, moving dynamically from lower right to upper left the highest peak cut off by the paper's edge. Nestled between the two diagonal ranges of mountains are thatched houses and temple buildings. Although the two diagonals of mountains are parallel: the front diagonal is visually dominant, occupying the large central space, and painted in rich, dark ink. Its diagonal movement, from a stable cone-shaped peak in the foreground to overhanging rock behind, is broken only by a diminutive waterfall close to two temple buildings. A lone figure seated by the window inside the left building leads our focus further left, to the second half of the landscape—there the mountains recede diagonally into distance and a spacious river flows under open skies.

Toward the end of the painting Shitao informs us of the circumstances under which the painting was made. His inscription begins with a poem:

The mountain's hue look like rain but there is no rain,
The paper windows are suddenly bright, suddenly dark;
The mountains are placid, the rocks are pale, and the pines are pale,
The glinting light of the ebbing water mirrors a disturbed heart.
“In the jisi year (1689) before I journey north, I leave this as a farewell [gift] for Master Wuweng and ask for his response.”
—Shitao, the monk from Jishan.For some odd reason Wang Shiqing does not include this poem in his seminal anthology of Shitao’s surviving poems but only cite it in his chronicle of Shitao’s life, see Shitao shilu, 207 and n. 128.

The inscription tells us that the year is 1689, the occasion is a farewell, and a certain Mr. Wuweng is the recipient of the painting, which properly gives the painting its title Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng. Despite the fact that Mr. Wuweng and his relationship with Shitao is yet to be identified,For the possible identity of this “Mr. Wuweng,” Wang Shiqing suggests two names: one is Liang Jiaji梁嘉稷, zi Wumu 五楘, a native of Jiangdu 江都, and the other is Shi Weisong 石為崧, zi Wuzhong 五中, a native of Rugao 如皋 (both Jiangdu and Rugao in modern Jiangsu province), Shitao shilu, 294 (n. 128). we will come back to this inscription to explore the many layers of meaning in the painting and the circumstances surrounding its creation.

For Shitao, the key word here is beiyou 北遊 or “northern journey,” which he made from Jiangnan to the dynastic capital Beijing and visits to nearby Tianjin, from the early spring of 1690 to the autumn of 1692, a journey which is richly documented in his writings and inscriptions on paintings. He first mentioned his intent to make a northern journey as early as 1686 in his inscription on a landscape titled The Pavilion Overlooking the River (Linjiangge tu 臨江閣圖). By 1689, the date of the Seattle painting Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng, Shitao was ready to travel to Beijing. In a third painting, the famous Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks (Soujin qifeng dacaogao 搜盡奇峰打草稿), painted by Shitao in Beijing upon the request of a Mr. Shen’an in the early spring of 1691, Shitao first expresses his intent to return south.

All three landscapes belong to a long-standing Chinese tradition of farewell paintings. Most importantly, each expresses Shitao's thoughts and feelings from his first ideas to travel north to his final return to the south. In this regard, these three scrolls can be considered Shitao’s “northern journey trilogy” and each can be better understood in association with the other two. By positioning the Seattle landscape chronologically, emotionally and psychologically in the middle of the trilogy, this study intends to contextualize Shitao’s art during this period by exploring interrelationships between the artist’s style, life experiences, and autobiography.

For Shitao, the most unforgettable events of the 1680s were the two brief imperial audiences granted to him by the Kangxi Emperor (r. 1662–1722) during the emperor’s first two southern inspection tours, first in Nanjing in the eleventh month of 1684 and the other in Yangzhou on the twenty-eighth day of the first month (February 17) in 1689.Kangxi’s first two southern tours are officially recorded in Zhao Erxun et al, Qingshi gao: Shengzu benji er 清史稿•聖祖本紀二(Qing History Drafts: Biography of Shengzu [Kangxi], Part 2), 4a-b and 10a-b, cited in Wang, Shitao shilu, 198-99 and 206. For a recent art historical study of Kangxi’s southern tours, see Maxwell K. Hearn, “Art Creates History: Wang Hui and The Kangxi Emperor’s Southern Inspection Tour,” in Fong, Wen C., Chin-Sung Chang, and Maxwell K. Hearn, Landscapes Clear and Radiant: The Art of Wang Hui (1632-1717), ed. Maxwell K. Hearn (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 129-83. The impact of these two imperial audiences on Shitao was so profound that he did two paintings to commemorate the events.For a critical analysis of the impact of these two imperial audiences on Shitao, see Hay, Shitao, 98-99 and 132. One is an album leaf with the politically-charged and flattering title, The Seas Are at Peace and the Rivers Are Pure (Hai yan he qing海晏河清) (National Palace Museum, Taipei), humbly signed “Servitor-monk Yuanji [Shitao’s other name] prostrates himself nine times (Chen seng Yuanji jiu dunshou臣僧元濟九頓首),” clearly intended for presentation to the emperor. The other is a handscroll, On an Audience with His Majesty on the Road to Pingshan during My Stay in Yangzhou (Ke Guangling Pingshan daoshang jianjia客廣陵平山道上見駕) (Princeton University Art Museum), accompanied at the end of the painting with two interconnected poems under the same title (fig. 1), the first of which reads:

I cannot make out the road, in darkness passing through the city gate;
Dawn breaks as I push on toward Pingshan.
The trip is a rare opportunity to meet the Sage of Benevolence;
Every step forward is a step closer to the Heavenly Visage.
Amid pine-scented breeze and dripping dew, the horse moves swiftly;
The fragrance of flowers surrounds me as I take a steep path.
Two generations have enjoyed Imperial benevolence, far to the realm of Maitreya;
Among men and in Heaven above perfect understanding has returned.Shitao’s two poems are collected in Qingxiang laoren tiji 清湘老人題記 (Anthology of Shitao’s inscriptions and colophons) compiled by Wang Jun 汪鋆, in Zhongguo shuhuaquanshu (hereafter ZGSHQS) 中國書畫全書(Complete Texts on Chinese Calligraphy and Painting), compiled by Lu Fusheng盧輔聖 et al., 8:594b (Shanghai: Shuhua chubanshe, 1994). The translation of the two poems is cited in Hay, Shitao, 103-4, with modifications.

Fig. 1: Shitao, On an Audience with His Majesty on the Road to Pingshan during my Stay in Yangzhou, 1689. Formerly in the Dafeng Tang Collection.

Contemporary scholars like Jonathan Hay have commented upon the artist’s practical desire to approach Kangxi as made clear in the above poems: Shitao “hoped that, just as Shunzhi 順治 (Kangxi’s father and founder of the Qing, r. 1644-61) had favored Muchen [Daomin] 木陳[道忞] (1596–1674) and Lü’an [Benyue] 旅庵[本月] (Muchen’s pupil and Shitao’s teacher, d. 1676), so now Shunzhi’s son would favor the son of Lü’an and grandson of Muchen (as his prominently placed seal proclaims him to be), presumably by offering him a temple responsibility.”See Hay, Shitao, 102-4 and figs. 57-58; the quote is from 104. For an earlier and detailed analysis of Shitao’s relationship with Muchen and Lü’an to fulfill his political-religious ambition, see Zhang Zining張子寧, “Shitao de Baimiao Shiliu zunzhe juan yu Huangshan tu ce 石濤的《白描十六尊者》卷與《黃山圖》冊 (Shitao’s Sixteen Luohans in the Baimiao Manner Scroll and Huangshan Album), Guoli lishi bowuguan guankan 3:1 (1993): 80-82, which Hay’s above discussion generally follows. It was to fulfill his hopes for imperial patronage in his pursuit of a significant Buddhist temple post that may well have motivated Shitao to take the northern journey.

The above two audience paintings and poems, presented to the emperor on the occasion of the artist's audiences, manifest Shitao’s changing attitude toward the Manchu rule in the 1680s. Thus, Shitao’s northern journey, as stated in the inscription on Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng, only several months following the artist’s heartening imperial audience, should have been a highly anticipated event in the artist’s life. Why then did Shitao state: “The mountains are placid, the rocks are pale, and the pines are pale/The glinting light of the ebbing water mirrors a disturbed heart,” when he bid farewell to Mr. Wuweng for his journey to Beijing in that winter of 1689? To find answers to that question, we need to look deeper into Shitao’s earlier preparations for this northern journey.

Although Shitao’s initial thoughts of journeying to Beijing may have been triggered by his first audience with the Kangxi Emperor in Nanjing of 1684, only in the early autumn of 1686 did Shitao openly state his plans to travel north in an inscription on The Pavilion Overlooking the River. Our knowledge of this now-lost painting comes only from an informative record by Yamamoto Teijirō 山本悌二郎 (1870–1937), which describes a composition of a large river; a pavilion on top of a high cliff overlooking sailboats below and a panoramic view of distant mountains. Shitao’s inscription on the painting begins with a poem and then concludes: “In the seventh month of the bingyin year (1686) on my northern journey, in remembrance of the Master of the Pavilion Overlooking the River, Written by Shitao, the monk from Jishan 丙寅七月北上,憶臨江閣主人,石濤濟山僧寫.”While the authenticity of the lost painting cannot be verified now, Yamamoto’s reputation as a discerning collector of classical Chinese painting persuades me not to discard this painting as a possible clue to understanding Shitao’s life and art. See Yamamoto Teijirō, Chōkaidō shoga mokuroku 澄懐堂書晝目錄(Catalogue of works of calligraphy and painting from the Chenghuai Studio collection) Tokyo: Bunkyūdo Shoten, 1932), juan 5, 46b-47a. The current whereabouts of this painting is unknown and this record is mentioned only in a footnote by Zheng Wei in his Shitao石濤 (Shanghai Museum, 1990, 122 and no. 16), but oddly not included by Wang Shiqing in his Shitao shilu. Based on the other two paintings dated to the same 丙寅七月 (see Wang's Shitao shilu, p. 202), this painting should have been done in Nanjing. Yet did Nanjing have a Linjiangge臨江閣? Was there a Master of Linjiangge 臨江閣主人among Shitao's circle of friends? If this is a reliable record of a genuine lost Shitao painting, the painting would be the earliest known visual evidence of Shitao’s anticipated northern journey.

At an art auction held in Nanjing on January 2, 2011, a long handscroll painted by Shitao in 1686 titled Farewell Landscape of Journeying to Min (Minyou zengbie shanshui juan)閩游贈別山水卷, (fig. 2 ) was sold at a record high price of RMB¥135,000,000 (slightly above $20,000,000).The January 2 auction was part of the Nanjing Classic 2010 Autumn art auction and this Shitao painting (cat. no. 0883) had been specially featured in the pre-auction publicity; for the auction information of the painting, including a low-resolution reproduction of the scroll, see its registration record at the website of Nanjing Classic Auction Co. Ltd: http://www.njjdpm.com/auctiondetail.aspx?id=1452. It is reported that the successful bidder of the painting is an anonymous entrepreneur in Zhejiang. The sale was widely reported by the media and the news created an immediate sensation in the art markets of traditional Chinese painting, both in China and internationally.

Fig. 2: Shitao, Farewell Landscape of Journeying to Min, 1686. Photo courtesy of Nanjing Jingdian Auction Company.

What interests us most here, however, is not so much the extraordinary market value of the painting as its close relationship with the Seattle painting. This painting sold at auction, formerly in the collection of C.C. Wang, has not drawn scholarly attention except for a few brief literary records. The earliest is by the nineteenth-century literati collector Pan Zhengwei潘正煒 (1791–1850), under the title of Landscape by the Daoist of Qingxiang (Qingxiang daoren shanshui juan 清湘道人山水卷).See Pan, Tingfanlou xuke shuhuaji 聼帆樓續刻書畫記 (Record of Works of Calligraphy and Painting from the Collection of the Tower of Listening to the Sail: A Sequel), in ZGSHQS, 11:924a. “The Daoist of Qingxiang” (Qingxiang daoren清湘道人) was a hao name Shitao started to use for himself in the 1670s during his early life in Xuancheng, Anhui. Xu Bangda 徐邦達had a good reason to change Pan’s generic shanshui, or "landscape," title to the more descriptive Minyou zhengbie shanshui juan閩游贈別山水卷or Farewell Landscape of Journeying to Min, based on an inscription written by Shitao at the beginning of the painting.See Xu, Gaiding lidai liuchuan huihua biannianbiao 改定歷代流傳繪畫編年表 (A Revised Chronicle of Surviving Paintings from the Successive Dynasties) (Beijing: Remin meishu chubanshe, 1996), 197. This scroll had been in the private collection of C.C. Wang until it suddenly surfaced under the same title given by Xu Bangda in the recent Nanjing art auction. Intriguingly, a good-quality color reproduction of the entire scroll was published yet under a strangely different title, see Yang Dongsheng 楊東勝ed. Jiangshan shenglan tu《江山勝攬圖》(A Panoramic View of Mountains and Rivers)(Hefei: Anhui meishu chubanshe, 2010); I am grateful to Zhang Changhong for timely sending me digital images of the scrolls from this new publication. This long handscroll, whatever its title may be, is a painting of import in Shitao’s development as painter, representing a place where his earlier Xuancheng-Anhui style meets with his newly-acquired Nanjing style. It deserves a separate case study and this author only regrets that he is unable to discuss the painting per se with the time and space constraints of the present essay. Since this inscription is not only essential for reading the painting but also connects the 1686 hanging scroll to the Seattle painting dated three years later, it deserves our attention. The inscription reads as follows:

In the winter months of the bingyin year (1686), I took Zaican to watch the snow at the abbot’s Elm Tree Lodge of the Daoist Temple of the Nine Heavens. Zhiqi told me that he would be journeying to Minhai (Fujian) next spring. [I told him that] I was also planning privately to go on a spring outing to You-Ji (Beijing). Believing our parting would come some day soon, he took out a long blank handscroll and laid it out on the table; he did not say a word but his meaning was clear. The mountain monk [Shitao himself] was intuitive enough to know exactly what he [Zhiqi] wanted, thus lighting the candles and painting the scroll to make ‘a laughing stick’ for our future reunion in order to bring back memories. —Written by Shitao of Qingxiang and Ji.“藂宿有榆方丈” in Shitao’s inscription means “叢霄有榆方丈”: “藂” (cong) is a popular form of “叢” (cong) in classical Chinese with the same pronunciation; “宿”, according to Zhu Liangzhi’s study, should be “霄” as “叢霄有榆方丈” was a well-documented Daoist temple in Nanjing and the residence of Shitao’s close Daoist friend Zhou Jing (see discussion of Zhou Jing’s colophon at the end of the painting below), see Zhu, Shitao Yanjiu, 251-55; see also Wang, Shitao shilu, 203. Bai Qianshen suggests that “宿” (su) might have been a pronunciation variant for “霄” (xiao) in a certain southern local dialect Shitao spoke or knew about—personal communications.


The inscription informs us that in winter of 1686, at the Elm Tree Lodge of the Daoist Temple of the Nine Heavens in Nanjing, at least three people were present at the gathering—Shitao, his attendant or assistant Zaican, and someone named Zhiqi. Zhiqi’s identity is not clear, as modern scholars disagree if he was a Chan or a Daoist monk.Zhiqi’s identity seems to have been largely ignored or overlooked in modern scholarship. Here are the only two brief mentions I can find: Mingfu 明復 identifies Zhiqi as a Chan monk from Panshan 盤山 in Jizhou 薊州 (present-day Jixian, Tianjin), see Shitao Yuanji Chanshi xingshi kao 石濤原濟禪師行實考 (Studies on the life and art of Chan master Shitao Yuanji) (Taipei: Xinwenfeng chubanshe, 1978), 87; Zhu Liangzhi, on the other hand, considers Zhiqi to be a Daoist, see Shitao yanjiu, 255 and 717. Neither, however, offers any reference sources for each’s identification. Mingfu also identifies Zaican, another person mentioned in Shitao’s inscription, as Shitao’s attendant or assistant (shizhe 侍者), who would accompany the master on his northern trip to Beijing in 1690, Shitao Yuanji, 89. A fourth important person was also present at that winter snow gathering, as revealed in a colophon by Zhou Jing周京 (active late 17th century) at the very end of the painting, which offers further details of the event. Zhou noted his six-year friendship with Shitao and continued: "Seated in my Elm Tree Lodge, [Shitao] was spontaneously playing with brush and ink to write out this scroll坐我有榆,慨然弄筆墨為寫此卷.” Zhou was amazed to watch Shitao paint this 18-foot-long landscape for Zhiqi from start to finish so quickly in one night, as if “in a single movement of the brush (yihui er jiu一揮而就)”; the colophon concludes: “At night on the twenty-sixth day, tenth month of winter (December 12, 1686), [written by] Zhou Jing, the Floor Sweeper of the Nine Heavens [Temple] 時是冬之十月二十六夜,叢霄灑掃人周京.”Zhou’s record of Shitao’s painting process is in the third vertical line from right and his signature is located in the middle of the colophon (the sixth line) followed by four poems he composed while watching Shitao paint the long scroll during the night. See also Wang, Shitao shilu, n. 114 on p. 291, though Wang does not give the full text of Zhou’s colophon. Thus, the exact date of Shitao’s painting, Shitao’s friendship with Zhou Jing, and the Elm Tree Lodge first mentioned in Shitao’s inscription as Zhou’s residence in the Nine Heavens Temple are all documented.Zhou was among the first acquaintances Shitao made when he arrived in Nanjing in the fifth month of the summer, 1680, before settling down in his humble yet famous “Single Branch Lodge” at Changgansi; at that time Shitao visited Zhou Jing’s thatched studio Xiangshan Caotang 向山草堂 and painted the hanging scroll Shouyi tu 授易圖for Zhou; for a reproduction, see Zhang Daqian 張大千, Qingxiang laoren shuhua biannian 清湘老人書畫編年 (Painting and calligraphy of Shitao: A chronological study). Hong Kong and Taipei: Gaoshi dongfan yishu gongshi, 1978, pl. 18), see Wang, Shitao shilu, 190. Zhou remained a close friend to Shitao throughout Shitao’s life; later Zhou recalled his friendship with Shitao with these words from an inscription on Shitao’s album of The Eight Views of Jinling(Jinling bajing tu 金陵八景图) “When Mr. Qingxiang [Shitao] lived in the Single Branch Lodge in Jinling (Nanjing), he and I were together from dawn to dusk, discussing literature and composing poetry, and we had never missed even one day,” cited in Zhu, Shitao yanjiu,134; see also Wang, Shitao shilu, 366-8.

Having the new information in Shitao’s inscription and Zhou Jing’s colophon, the recipient Zhiqi’s name may be added to the title, thus Farewell Landscape for Zhiqi Journeying to Min (Zhiqi Minyou zengbie shanshui juan 智仚閩游贈別山水卷),This helps clarify the confusion of Jonathan Hay who thought that in the same winter of 1686 Shitao painted a landscape for Zhiqi and another for Zhou Jing under the title of Streams and Mountains without End (Xishan wujin 溪山無盡) formerly in the C.C. Wang collection(see Hay, n. 78, ch. 3 on p. 347)—now we know for sure the two were actually one and the same painting. both for the sake of clarity and to align in a parallel fashion with the title of the Seattle landscape, Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng,of 1689. Thus, the paintings share two important similarities: Each landscape is a parting gift for a friend; and more significantly, in both farewell landscapes, Shitao mentions his own plan for a northern trip. In this way each painting references two journeys: a pictorial journey (i.e. the painted landscape) to bid farewell to a friend—Zhiqi, or Mr. Wuweng—and an actual planned journey of the artist, or of both the artist and the recipient, as in the case of the 1686 scroll. When Shitao heard of Zhiqi’s upcoming journey to Fujian in the spring, he revealed his own personal plan to “go on a spring outing to You-Ji”—You-Ji is an ancient geographical name for the Manchu capital Beijing and its vicinity.

Around the same time of his Farewell Landscape for Zhiqi, Shitao also wrote a long autobiographical poem, Song of My Life (Shengping xing 生平行), to bid farewell from his “Single Branch Lodge (Yizhige 一枝閣)” to his friends in Nanjing. The following lines from the last part of the poem express once again Shitao’s plan for the northern journey:

Last night, as if blown by the wind, I dreamt of going to the capital,
The sound of the carrier pigeon’s bell relays afar with the cries of wild geese in flight.
A letter from an old friend comes in with great details, [Cao Binji] Asking a southern wind to hasten me northward.
I compose this song while seeking out the distant journey
That will extend my aspirations to the eight corners of the universe.
I promise you that we will meet again in some future years,
As the riverside city that I leave behind is my witness.For the full text of Shitao’s Song of My Life, see Qingxiang laoren tiji in ZGSHQS, 8:599a-b; see also Wang, Shitao shilu, 18-19. My translation is cited with modifications from Hay, Shitao, 83, which draws on the translations by Wen C. Fong, Returning Home: Tao-chi’s Album of Landscape and Flowers (New York: George Braziller, 1976), 22 and Richard K. Kent, “The Sixteen Lohans in the Pai-miao Style: From Sung to Early Ch’ing” (Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1995), 277-83.

Shitao had been invited by his old friend Cao Binji 曹賓及 (d. 1689), who had encouraged his journey to Beijing. Cao Binji was the second son of Huizhou prefect Cao Dingwang曹鼎望 (1618–1693, jinshi 1659), both of whom Shitao was acquainted with since the late 1660s at Huangshan黄山.For Shitao’s acquaintance and friendship with the Cao family at Huangshan and beyond, see Wang Shiqing, “Shitao xingji yu jiaoyou buzheng—Shitao sankao zhi liu” 石濤行跡與交遊補證—石濤散考之六(Odd Notes on Shitao no. 6: Further Evidence for Shitao’s Travels and Contacts), in Juanhui tiandi zhi you zhen: Wang Shiqing yiyuan chayi buzheng sankao (xia) 卷懷天地自有真:汪世清藝苑查疑補證散考(下) (Taipei: Rock Publishing International, 2006), 590 (first published in 1982); Zhang Zining, “Sixteen Luohans,” 69-79; Hay, Shitao, 91-92. According to Zhu Zhiliang’s study, Cao Binji was among the courtiers accompanying Kangxi in the emperor’s first southern tour. He might have met his old friend Shitao at Changgansi (Bao’ensi) in Nanjing and might have even played a role in Kangxi’s audiences with Shitao, see Shitao yanjiu, 452-57. The last four lines of the Song of My Life paint a vivid portrait of Shitao at that moment in his life: the excitement of being invited by Cao; his self-confidence and his ambition for widespread renown are evident. The last two verses are parting words, so overwhelmingly positive in tone that it seems as though future success is assured. What a stark contrast to the image of a perturbed Shitao sitting alone before a rainstorm with “a disturbed heart” as declared in the poem on the Seattle painting!

What happened to Shitao during the three years between the two farewell poems and paintings? More specifically, if Shitao had already been on his way from Nanjing to Beijing in 1686, as stated in both his Song of My Life and his inscription on Farewell Landscape for Zhiqi, why was he still commenting on journeying north by the time of the Seattle painting, Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng in 1689? One answer can be found in a 1688 colophon Shitao wrote at the end of a Ming scroll painting of Luohans, in which the artist talked about an extraordinary scroll of Sixteen Luohans in the baimiao白描 or plane-line-drawing manner that took him three years to finish in the late 1660s. He ended with an account of the tragic fate of the Sixteen Luohans scroll that had accompanied him for some twenty years:

“… Last year of dingmao [1687], in the third month, I took a boat trip northward… left the boat and stayed over at Zhailu’an of Qingjiangpu [modern Qingjiang, Jiangsu]. I was surrounded by an assembly of demons and the scroll was stolen by an evil serpent. To this day [1688, seventh month] I don’t dare to think about it. Even though I don’t dare to think about it, for two years now I have fallen into depression.”The Ming Luohan scroll is by an unidentified artist named Chen Liangbi 陳良壁 (active ca. 1600) and Shitao’s colophon is dated to “wuchen qiyue” 戊辰(1688)七月 both of which are currently in the Shanghai Museum; see Zhang Zining, “Sixteen Luohans,” fig. 1. The translation is cited in Hay, Shitao, 102, with slight modifications.
… 昨年丁卯三月,渡江北上,捨舟… 客清江浦之摘蘆庵中。群魔圍繞,此卷為毒龍所攝。至今不敢動一思。然雖不敢思,而余已墮痴愚二載矣!

So, Shitao did start his northern journey in the third month of 1687 but the journey seems to have been aborted because of the assault by the “assembly of demons” en route and the loss of the important Luohans scroll to “an evil serpent.” The contemporary scholar Joseph Chang [Zining] has identified the “assembly of demons” and the “evil serpent” as followers of Yulin Tongxiu 玉林通琇 (1614–1675), a rival of Muchen and Lü’an in Chan politics; in other words, Shitao fell victim to the contemporary intense rivalry and conflicts between Chan factions, including a more recent event in the fifth month of 1688, in which the woodblocks used to print Muchen’s writings were destroyed and burnt at a public Chan Buddhist ritual.Zhang Zining, “Sixteen Luohans,” 82; see also Hay, Shitao, 102.

These happenings within Chan politics as well as other worries and concerns regarding the northern journey were likely on the mind of Shitao in 1689 when he painted Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng. These circumstances also shed light on Shitao’s poem on the Seattle painting. In it, he seems to be expressing not only his anxiety over the impression he made at his previous imperial audiences, but also his trepidation at his forthcoming northern journey.

Now that we have examined the poem, let us return to the painting to see how the artist expressed his unsettling thoughts by connecting word and image. The majority of this vigorously painted handscroll, from top to bottom, is filled with mountain peaks and valleys, rocks, trees, and streams. Only in the last section does space dramatically open up. Here a broad bay with a spacious expanse of water recedes into the distance, suggesting the northern boat journey.

Does the systematic alternation of light and dark monochrome ink across the composition correspond with that of “like rain” and “no-rain” over the mountains, and of “suddenly bright, suddenly dark” seen in the reflections on the paper windows? How could the artist’s heart not be disturbed when it is sandwiched and squeezed in the depths of a valley between two diagonally looming mountain ranges? And if “The glinting light of the ebbing water mirrors a disturbed heart,” would not all the images of the “placid mountains, pale rocks, and pale pines” be a psychological projection of Shitao’s state of the mind rather than a representation of any actual landscape the artist sees and tries to depict? The tension concentrated in the first half of the scroll, and accelerated by the ever-increasing pictorial intensity, seems suddenly released into the open expanse at the end, becoming the visual equivalent of a departure.

The density and homogeneity of Shitao’s composition and his use of repetitive ink dots and curvilinear contours are characteristic of his painting style of the Nanjing period in the 1680s. Shitao’s use of ink dots clearly refers back to two earlier paradigmatic masters of the ink dot style—Dong Yuan 董源 (d. 962) and Mi Fu 米芾 (1052–1107)—but his ink dots were always fresh and innovative, as a 1682 inscription on a landscape album leaf specifically addresses his own method of applying ink dots: “Like Dong but not Dong/Like Mi but not Mi 似董非董,似米非米.”The album leaf was formerly in the Dafengtang collection; see Zhang Daqian, Qingxiang laoren, pl. 21R. An example par excellence of Shitao’s painting in the ink-dot style is the 1685 handscroll Ten Thousand Ugly Ink Dots (Wandian e’mo 萬點惡墨) currently in the Suzhou Museum. The painting was dedicated to for a certain Canggong 蒼公, whom Wang Shiqing has identified as Buddhist monk Changxiu 常岫, zi Canglin 蒼林, Shitao shilu, 200 and 290 (no. 109). In Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng, ink dots are numerous, dark, and restless; they cover the mountain tops along the diagonal ranges; they surround the two central buildings in the valley with the lone figure inside; they even look like rain drops, as if trying to confirm the rain so ambiguously forecasted in the poem (The mountain's hue looks like rain but there is no rain).

In every aspect, the abrupt opening, the diagonally oriented movement, the method of restless ink dots, the lone figure and its placement, the unsettling and disturbing tone of the poem, the difference between the two halves of the composition, and the tension between the painting and the poem, Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng is a painting par excellence of the qi 奇or “extraordinary/eccentric” category in the period style of seventeenth-century China.For an informative discussion of the qi aesthetics in the late Ming and early Qing, see Qianshen Bai, Fu Shan’s World: The Transformation of Chinese Calligraphy in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2003), 10-20; Bai’s footnotes include further references on the qi phenomenon. Qi’s definition includes strange, extraordinary, marvelous, original, or eccentric, depending on the given context. Shitao was considered rightly by his contemporaries, from his patron Cao Dingwang to his biographer Li Lin 李驎 (1634–1710), as a qishi 奇士or an eccentric scholar with frequent qimeng 奇夢 (strange dreams) and experiences of qibian 奇變 (extraordinary transformation).See Li Lin’s “Dadizi chuan” 大滌子傳 (Biography of Dadizi [Shitao]) in his collected works Qiufeng wenji 虬峰文集, juan 16, and Hay’s discussion of it, Shitao, 284-86. Three Qing colophons on the Seattle scroll that praise Shitao as qishi and qiren 奇人 (eccentric man) and his art as qi and full of qiqing奇情 (extraordinary passion) are characteristic of eighteenth- to nineteenth-century literati views of the artist.These three of the six Qing colophons at the end of the Seattle scroll were written respectively by Liu Daguan 劉大觀 (1753-1834), Yi Bingshou 伊秉綬 (1754-1815), and Wu Zhao (see no. 2). The colophons are transcribed and translated in the ‘Inscriptions’ section of this catalogue.

Shitao himself was not only fully aware of the qi aesthetics of his time but also participated in its practice. One example was his use of qi as the subject for a very important painting in 1691, Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks, with the seven-character title, 搜盡奇峰打草稿 Soujin qifeng da caogao, written conspicuously on the opening of the painting(fig. 3).“搜盡奇峰打草稿” came from an exact artistic statement of Shitao that first appeared in the form of a rectangular intaglio seal used first by Shitao, according to the study of Richard Edwards, in the artist’s late Nanjing years before he left for Beijing and more frequently on paintings after he returned to Yangzhou in 1692 toward the end of his life: for example, the stamps of the same seal appear on Waterfall at Mt. Lu (Sumitomo collection) and Drunk in the Autumn Woods (Crawford collection)—both undated but probably around 1692-96—and also on Peach Blossom Spring dated 1705 (Freer Gallery), see Edwards, The Painting of Tao-chi: 1641-ca. 1720 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Art Museum, 1969), 68. Although this 1691 farewell landscape painting has been the subject of numerous scholarly discussions, its richness deserves a separate case study. Like Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng in the Seattle Art Museum, Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks is a farewell landscape, according to Shitao’s own inscription, painted in Beijing “in the second month of xinwei (1691) when I am about to return south時辛未二月,余將南還.” The recipient of the painting is a “Mr. Shen’an 慎安先生, master of the Qiehan Studio (Qiehanzhai 且憨齋),” who has been identified by Wang Shiqing as the retired Left Vice-Minister of the Personnel Wang Fengying 王封溁 (d. 1703).For a critical account of Shitao’s sojourn and social life in Beijing, including his reasons to return south, see Hay, Shitao, 104-9; my discussion here draws on Hay, 104-5 and Wang, Shitao shilu, 294-95 (n. 133). The pinyin for the character溁, as in the name of王封溁, is ying, not rong as spelled in Hay, 104-5.

Fig. 3: Shitao, Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks, 1691. Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Wang Fengying was only one of the many high-ranking court officials Shitao came to know during his Beijing sojourn of 1690-92, while the most important was the influential Manchu noble art collector Bordu, who became a close patron-friend to Shitao.For an informative recent study of the close relationship of Shitao and Bordu, including discussions of several paintings Shitao made for Bordu, see Zhu, Shitao yanjiu, 271-78. Bordu’s friendship and patronage helped introduce Shitao not only to high-ranking court officials but also to some of the most prominent court painters. For example, in the same second month of 1691, while painting Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks for Wang Fengying, Shitao did a picture of bamboo and orchids for Bordu, who brought it to the influential Orthodox-school master Wang Yuanqi 王原祁 (1642–1715) to have some rocks added.For an insightful analysis of the different roles of Wang Yuanqi and Shitao in relation to the Orthodox school and the Individualist movement in the history of Chinese painting, see James Cahill, The Compelling Image: Nature and Style in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Painting (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982), 185-225 (Chapter 6). This hanging scroll under the title of Orchid and Bamboo (Lanzhu tu 蘭竹圖), currently in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, is often considered by scholars to be a friendly collaboration between Shitao and Wang Yuanqi mediated by Bordu as an effort to promote Shitao, see Hay, Shitao, 105; Shih Shou-chien 石守謙, however, views it as “a distorted collaboration” (bianxing hezhuo 變形合作) manipulated by Bordu, see Shih, “Shitao-Wang Yuanqi hezhuo Lanzhu tu de wenti” 石濤王原祁合作蘭竹圖的問題(A study on an Orchid and Bamboo scroll by Shitao-Wang Yuanqi), in Proceedings of the International Colloquium on Chinese Art History, 1991 (Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1992), 491-511. Only a month later Shitao was invited by the then Right Vice-Minister of the Rites Wang Zehong 王澤弘 (1626–1708) to view apricot blossoms; Shitao painted Under the Shade of an Ancient Tree (Gumu chuiyin tu古木垂蔭圖), for Wang in return of the host’s hospitality.See Zhang Zining張子寧 (Joseph Chang), “Qing Shitao Gumu chuiyin tu jian luexi qi hualun yanjin zhi suoyi清石濤《古木垂陰圖軸》兼略析其畫論演進之所以 (Qing Shitao’s Under the Shade of an Ancient Tree with an analysis of the evolution of his painting theories), Yishuxue 2 (1988): 141-55. Around the same time Shitao also collaborated with the brilliant literati court painter Wang Hui 王翚 (1632–1717)—Shitao painting bamboo, the orchids and rocks by Wang Hui.The painting, a hanging scroll, is presently in the Zhilelou 至樂樓 collection, Hong Kong. Like the above-mentioned Shitao-Wang Yuanqi work, this collaboration was also arranged by Bordu. For a thoughtful discussion of both paintings in relation with each other, see Marilyn and Shen Fu, Studies in Connoisseurship: Chinese paintings from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections in New York, Princeton and Washington, D.C. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973), 49-50 and figs. 15-16.

The delight and pleasure of such an active social life within Beijing high society may have left noticeable traces in Shitao’s landscape of Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks, especially compared to the anxiety and uncertainty as visualized in Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng. If the opening of the 1689 Nanjing landscape is abrupt, an unexpected surprise, in contrast the opening of the1691 Beijing landscape, even with the word "extraordinary" incorporated in the inscribed title, Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks, looks ordinary: a meandering river runs quietly through to the foreground. Despite the different, more placid opening, the overall composition of Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks essentially follows that of Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng. The two landscape paintings end similarly with a small island and a large body of open water, as if indicative of the boat as the means of transport in both the departure for Beijing and the return from Beijing of Shitao’s northern journey. Lastly, an inscription written by Shitao fills the space of the open river to mark the very end of each landscape painting.Shitao’s long inscription at the end of the 1691 painting states his knowledge and reception of the 11th-century imperial academy master of landscape painting Guo Xi, which deserves a separate study. Shitao turned to Guo Xi once more later in the monumental hanging scroll, Waterfall on Mt. Lu (Sumitomo Collection), with another important inscription; see Cahill, The Compelling Image, 207-8.

In spite of the many similarities in the compositional structure, Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks and Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng differ sharply in style. In the former, the brushwork is dry and meticulous; the execution is slow and patient; and the organization is clear and controlled with repetitive long and linear texture strokes over the entire surface except for a few scattered dark ink dots—reflective of Shitao’s indebtedness to the Anhui school from his Xuancheng years of 1667-78.Cahill observes that the Anhui school style persists in some of Shitao’s landscape paintings through his Nanjing period and beyond , though often superbly transformed (The Compelling Image, 200)—this here is another good example of such stylistic persistence and transformation; see also n. 39 below.

The contrast between this and the Seattle scroll is striking. In the Seattle scroll the brushwork is wet and heavy with washes; the execution is fast and spontaneous; improvisation replaces organization to create tensions between light and dark and between lines and dots, as well as spatial and representational ambiguities— reminiscent of the artist’s 1685 painting Ten Thousand Ugly Ink Dots (fig. 4) inspired probably by the style of Nanjing school during his stay there.See Cahill, The Compelling Image, 202 and also n. 27 and n. 38 above. For an excellent case study of Shitao’s selective use of the Anhui and Nanjing school styles in 1695, see Richard Vinograd, “Reminiscences of Ch’in-huai: Tao-chi and the Nanking School,” Archives of Asian Art 31 (1977/1978): 6-31. These different stylistic characteristics contribute to the different emotional and psychological moods in the two paintings: anxiety and uncertainty in the 1689 landscape prior to Shitao’s departure from Nanjing, and delight and exuberance in the 1691 landscape during the artist’s Beijing sojourn.

Fig. 4: Shitao, Ten Thousand Ugly Ink Dots, 1685. © Suzhou Museum.

The same delight and exuberance can be seen even more directly in the fourteen figures Shitao depicts in the Beijing landscape by following the order of their appearances. Such well-organized configuration—that is, the forming of the fourteen figures in groups engaged in their various leisurely engagements—brings out a sharp contrast with the depiction of the one lone figure inside the mountain pavilion before an imminent rainstorm in the Seattle landscape. What do these figures in landscape mean? It is not enough to see them solely as motifs illustrative of the Northern Song academy master Guo Xi’s (ca. 1010–ca. 1090) three landscape categories of “those in which one may sightsee, those through which one may wander, and those in which one may live (kewangzhe 可望者, keyouzhe可遊者, kejuzhe可居者) as cited in Shitao’s inscription written on the end of the 1691 painting (See fig. 3).See no. 34 above.

In his analysis of the meaning of figures as depicted in tenth- to eleventh-century Chinese landscape painting, Richard Barnhart points out that “they are surrogates for the painter who, in painting them, paints an aspect of himself” and “metaphors of the artist’s mind and presence.”Barnhart, “Figures in Landscape,” Archives of Asian Art 42 (1989): 64 and 69. Barnhart’s analysis can well be used in our exploration of the meaning of Shitao’s figures in the two landscape paintings under discussion, as the figures symbolize certain aspects of Shitao, his life, his mind and his emotions, however ambiguous they are. For example, the fourteen figures in the Beijing landscape can be regarded as a continuous narration, in which Shitao plays multiple roles and assumes different identities as fisherman, villager, traveler, scholar-poet, observer (the seated figure by the cliff). In the Seattle painting, on the other hand, the lone figure serves, without any ambiguity, both as the surrogate for Shitao and as “the eye of the painting… from which the artist unexpectedly speaks and reveals himself” and through which a discerning viewer is able to share the artist’s viewpoint and emotions.Barnhart, Ibid. 64. That is what Shitao presents as himself in his paintings; and that is how we should view the paintings in order to see aspects of the artist and his art.

It would be simplistic, however, to conclude from the above comparison that Shitao must have enjoyed his life with the Beijing high society because the narrative and the style in Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks look delightful, exuberant, and neat, or that Shitao must have lost his confidence for his northern journey because his portrayal of the self appears lonely and uneasy in face of a rainstorm in Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng. Yes, Shitao’s life in Beijing might have been enjoyable but only to certain extent; otherwise, why write at the end of his inscription on the painting:"I am about to return south (yu jiang nanhuan 余將南還)"? Remember that Shitao had been in Beijing only for a year by the second month of 1691 when painting Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks for Mr. Shen’an. We can only surmise that Shitao must have already been so disappointed as to start planning his return to south—even though the actual return did not take place until another eighteen months later, after the artist’s failed effort to attain imperial patronage. By the same token, Shitao must have experienced some crisis of identity and self-confidence, but he was strongly and optimistically determined to face any challenge.

It was these complexities and contradictions that made Shitao into, in Jerome Silbergeld’s words, “a contradictory figure in contradictory times,” who “repeatedly reoriented and reinvented himself, negotiating between opposition and reconciliation with the larger-than-life forces of his day.”Silbergeld, “Review of Shitao:Painting and Modernity in Early Qing China by Jonathan Hay (Cambridge University Press, 2001),” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 62, no. 1 (2002): 231. These “larger-than-life forces” refer not only to social, political, religious and economical conditions but also to culture, literature, art and its competing schools and style, as exhibited so fully and brilliantly in Shitao’s three beiyouor northern journey landscapes in the present study.

Shitao’s style and his life experiences seem to have been in sync around 1689 when he painted Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng, Searching Everywhere for Extraordinary Peaks, and the earlier Farewell Landscape for Zhiqi Journeying to Min. Each painting, with its poetic inscription, records the painter’s feelings and emotions of that particular moment. The three paintings belong to what Jonathan Hay has characterized as “Shitao’s art of autobiography,” in which the artist endows his painting “with a ‘diary’ nature, closely related to his lyric poetry and often accompanied by such poems.”Hay also cites Pei-yi Wu’s study, Confucian’s Progress: Autobiographical Writings in Traditional China (Princeton, 1990, 235-37) that the period from roughly 1585 to 1680 constituted the “golden age” of autobiography as a highly personal mode of writing in literature. See Hay, Shitao, 109-11 and no. 117. Hay notes that the possibility of this art of autobiography in painting comes from a long tradition of lyric painting, in which “a fundamental rhetoric of authenticity around the brush trace, understood as a psychomaterial trace of the self, was combined with such iconographic possibilities of self-representation as the presence of a human figure within the painting who functioned as a surrogate ‘I’ (this was especially important for Shitao)…”See Barnhart’s discussion of figures in landscape and n. 41 above. In this regard, Hay holds that Shitao’s art of autobiography can be matched only by the art of Bada Shanren; Hay, Ibid. 111. Another practitioner extraordinaire of the art of autobiography earlier than Shitao was the Wu-school master Shen Zhou 沈周 (1427-1509), see Richard Edwards, “Shen Chou and the Scholarly Tradition,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 24, no. 1 (1965): 45-52, and Kathlyn Liscomb, “The Power of Quiet Sitting at Night: Shen Zhou’s (1427-1509) Night Vigil,” Monumenta Serica 43 (1995): 381-403.

Nowhere in the art of Shitao is this diary nature, this lyricism, this surrogate “I” combined so expressively into so brilliant a painting as in the 1689 Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng prior to My Northern Journey. Here the artist opens to the viewer his deep feelings and emotions of anxiety, uncertainly, and even fear mixed with determination and hope in a rare manner—by means of dangerous verticals, strong diagonals, heavy ink dots, spatial ambiguities, and the lone figure. The poem inscribed by Shitao over the open river at the end of the painting, brief as it is, both anchors the pictorial composition and determines the narrative and its meaning, not only in the work of Shitao but also in the history of Chinese art. Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng is an example par excellence of Shitao’s art of autobiography.

© 2013 by the Seattle Art Museum


Please Login to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment:

Questions for thought

Pertinent Question for "Farewell Landscape for Mr. Wuweng"


| Add an answer

Add Answer:

Please Login to add an answer.
All ArtistsShitao
Already have an account?Login
What is this?

Check this if you are an accredited scholar of Chinese art. After submittingyour registration the moderator of the website will either approve or deny your application. Your registration however will be immediate.


You must fill out all information in order to apply

  • *
  • errors
Forgot password?
  • errors
  • errors


Are you a scholar of Chinese painting and calligraphy?

Upgrade your profile to a scholar status
Your request to become a scholar on our website is pending approval
  • errors


Please fill out the additional information and we will review it promptly. Once your request is approved, you will be notified via email.
Back to Profile

You must fill out all information in order to apply

  • errors

Tip: Drag and drop images to the folders to organize them

  • errors
Login to use My Collections.
  • errors
Collection item
Collection item