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CLP 170: 1995 New prefaces for Chinese readers for Parting and Distant Mts., to be included in Chinese-language versions

A & B: Prefaces for Parting, Distant Mts.


A. Parting at the Shore: New Preface for Chinese Readers

I am happy to see this book, the second in my projected series of five making up a history of later Chinese painting, appearing in Chinese translation, since it marks, within my own development as a scholar and writer, the beginning of a new phase. The first volume, Hills Beyond a River (of which the Rock Publishing International edition appeared in 1994), was a shorter and simpler book than the later two. Although I had for years been exploring ways to relate the styles and subjects of Chinese paintings to various "outside" factors--theory, history, other facets of Chinese culture--I was still, as a student of my mentor Max Loehr, basically committed to an approach that combined research into the painters' lives and the subjects of their paintings with considerations of style, both individual style and larger developments within stylistic traditions or lineages, from one period to another.

By the mid-1970s, when I was working on Parting At the Shore, I had come to be much more occupied than before with other questions than these: the significance of grouping artists by regional schools, the intricacies of the professional-amateur distinction, the clear correlations I could observe between the position of an artist in Ming society and the subjects and styles of his paintings. On this last matter I presented a brief paper at a symposium on Wen Cheng-ming at the University of Michigan in 1975, pointing out that T'ang Yin and Wen Cheng-ming, besides being great individual artists, conformed in certain respects to types, both in their lives and in their paintings. An artist, that is, whose life pattern (as we read it in Chinese accounts) exhibited certain characteristics painted pictures that exhibited another set of characteristics which seemed somehow to correspond, so that T'ang Yin and Wen Cheng-ming, for example, given their situations, could not have changed places and painted each other's pictures. The correspondences, moreover, extended to other artists of the period with surprising consistency, and could be used to define, in broad terms, "types" of artists for this period. Unless these correlations could be shaken or disproved, I argued, we should face them and explore their implications. In the sixteen years since then, they have neither been shaken nor, alas, fully acknowledged. I returned to the topic several years ago in a symposium paper delivered in China,[1] and continue to hope that others than myself will become seriously engaged with this large, very important question, the relationship between the artist's socio-economic status and his choices of subjects and styles, instead of arguing (as some of my colleagues have) that it is not really of much significance, or that we don't have enough hard information to address it, or that, in spite of the correlations I drew, all artists were somehow still free to paint whatever and however they chose.[2]

This issue has been controversial enough to divert attention from what I believed to be other innovative features of the book. In the fourth chapter, a group of artists who were active mostly in Nanking in the 15th and early 16th century, and who occupied positions in society somewhere between the "professionals" and the "amateurs," were brought together and considered as a group for the first time; this new grouping has been widely accepted and used by others. The so-called Che School received a more extended and detailed, and I still believe more sympathetic, treatment in the first and third chapters than they had enjoyed in earlier general histories, although this account of the school has now been in part superceded and corrected by Richard Barnhart's excellent Painters of the Great Ming.[3] And the directions in my own writing that began during the preparation of this book were further developed in its successor, The Distant Mountains. I am glad that the Chinese version of that book will appear around the same time as this, and hope that both, in spite of their age, will still prove to be interesting and useful to Chinese readers, besides contributing significantly to our field of study.

B. The Distant Mountains: New Preface for Chinese Readers

[Note to Jason: some of the text below in brackets was presumably incorporated into the new preface for Hills Beyond a River? so can be eliminated here. I am going on that assumption. But I've also included some of it, which concerned Parting At the Shore, into the new preface for that book. Please make suitable adjustments. Anything in brackets below that didn't appear in the Chinese preface to Hills can be worked in somewhere in those for Parting & DM?]

["Since this third volume in my series on later Chinese painting will be the first to appear in the Chinese translation, I should provide some background about the series.

["I conceived the idea for this series of books in the early 1970s, after having been asked by a publisher to write a one-volume Later Chinese Painting (to accompany an Early Chinese Painting volume to be written by someone else). I declined the proposal, realizing that having written already a broad introduction to the subject (Chinese Painting, Skira, 1960, published in Chinese by Hsiung-shih Press), I had no wish to do another, at least not then. But thinking about the more spacious, detailed of study of Yüan, Ming, and Ch'ing painting that I wanted to write, I looked for a publisher who would produce the books as I wanted them: ample texts, good design, reproductions integrated with the chapters they accompany instead of being all grouped at the back. Meredith Weatherby, founder and at that time president of John Weatherhill, Inc., in Tokyo, responded enthusiastically to my plan, starting an association that has been very rewarding for me and has produced the three handsome volumes that have appeared so far: Hills Beyond a River: Chinese Painting of the Yüan Dynasty (1270-1368), published in 1976; Parting At the Shore: Chinese Painting of the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty (1368-1570), published in 1978; and The Distant Mountains: Chinese Painting of the Late Ming Dynasty (1570-1644) published in 1982, of which the present volume is a translation.

["The chronological spacing of these three books, however, will indicate the nature of the problem that has arisen in the production of them. In the preface to the first I announced grandly that I meant to write them at the rate of one a year, finishing the series in five years. In fact, two years elapsed between the publication of the first and second; four years between the second and third; and nine years since the third, with volume four still very much "in progress." What became of my confidently-announced schedule?

["The five-year plan was based on an optimistic belief that writing the books would be a relatively simple matter of expanding the lecture notes from the courses on later Chinese painting that I had given over the years, especially after my move to the University of California at Berkeley in 1965. The first book, Hills Beyond a River, was indeed written in that way, besides incorporating research done for my doctoral dissertation (which originally was to have been on all four of the Four Great Masters of late Yüan landscape, and only later was narrowed to Wu Chen) and other studies of Yüan painting I had made.This one is the shortest of the three books, and the most conventional in its approach. Although I had for years been exploring ways to relate the character of Chinese paintings to various "outside" factors--theory, history, other facets of Chinese culture--I was still, as a student of my mentor Max Loehr, basically committed to an approach that combined research into the painters' lives and the subjects of their paintings with considerations of style, both individual style and larger developments within stylistic traditions or lineages, from one period to another.

["By the mid-1970s, when I was working on Parting At the Shore, I had become much more occupied than before with other questions than these: the significance of grouping artists by regional schools, the intricacies of the professional-amateur distinction, the clear correlations I could observe between the position of an artist in Ming society and the subjects and styles of his paintings. On this last matter a presented a brief paper at a symposium on Wen Cheng-ming at the University of Michigan in 1975, pointing out that T'ang Yin and Wen Cheng-ming, besides being great individual artists, conformed in certain respects to types, both in their lives and in their paintings, and that an artist whose life pattern (as we read it in Chinese accounts) exhibited certain characteristics painted pictures that exhibited another, as-if-corresponding set of characteristics; so that the two painters, given their situations, could not have changed places and painted each other's pictures. And that the correspondences extended to other artists of the period with surprising consistency. Unless these correlations could be shaken or disproved, I argued, we should face them and explore their implications. In the sixteen years since then, however, they have been neither shaken nor fully acknowledged. I returned to the topic last year in a symposium paper delivered in China, and continue to hope that others than myself will become seriously engaged with this large, very important question, the relationship between the artist's socio-economic status and his choices of subjects and styles, instead of arguing that it is not really of much significance, or that we don't have enough hard information to address it, or that, in spite of the correlations I drew, all artists are somehow still free to paint whatever and however they choose."]

[What follows is the proposed Chinese preface for Distant Mts.]

 

This is the third volume in my projected series of five on the history of later Chinese painting. The fourth, on painting of the early Ch'ing period, is underway (as it has been for some thirteen years); I have every confidence that it will be completed within a few more years, and eventually published, in both English and Chinese. Whether I will ever complete the fifth volume, on the period from the early 18th century up to the mid-20th century (or beyond?), is more problematic, given the difficulty that writing the later volumes seems to present.

Readers of the earlier volumes, Hills Beyond a River and Parting At the Shore, will quickly discover that this third one attempts even more ambitiously than before to interweave a diversity of factors into richer, more complex accounts of the artists and paintings: factors of locale, social and economic status, theoretical positions, attitudes toward the past, etc. This greater complexity of argument in the book, however, is not only an outcome of changes in my approach; it also reflects the nature of the materials I was dealing with. Choices of styles and subjects in this period were, I believe, more tightly interlocked with those outside factors than ever before, so that artists painting certain themes in certain ways might, among other things, be associating themselves with positions on various issues outside art. The documentation for this later period is fuller, so that we can deal with matters that would be difficult to treat for the Yüan or early Ming. And great changes were happening in Chinese society, especially an expanding mercantile economy and a merchant class that is moving closer to the foreground of history, interacting with other social groups such as an older gentry class, the power structure of government officialdom, and an ever-increasing population of out-of-work literati. How these and other historical developments affected late Ming painting is one of the large themes of this book. To any critic who judges that it was not adequately accomplished herein, I will respond with nothing but agreement, and a confident prediction that it will be done better by others in the future. But someone had to make a start; that is what I attempted in this study of late Ming painting, and will continue in the fourth volume on painting of the early Ch'ing. And I will be happy if these books, now that they are available in Chinese translations, can serve Chinese readers by supplementing, from a different viewpoint, the excellent studies by Chinese scholars of the same material that are already available.

In the same year that the original English version of this book was published, 1982, my book The Compelling Image: Nature and Style in Seventeenth-Century Chinese Painting, based on the Norton Lectures given at Harvard in 1979, also appeared; there is obviously some overlap between the two, in the artists and paintings and issues discussed. But Compelling Image is concerned more with large questions of meaning and conventionalization and style, where Distant Mountains attempts a more comprehensive and detailed account of painting in this period, school by school, artist by artist. This is, to be sure, a rather old-fashioned approach, given recent developments in the art history field; it still seems worth doing for late Ming painting, once, before chronological and regional and school-oriented accounts are given up altogether.

I am extremely grateful to Jason Wang for the large expenditure of time and thought that turning my difficult text into Chinese has required; and to Mr. C. T. Ch'en, founder and president of Rock Publishing International, for his vision of producing Chinese-languages editions of these books, and for carrying through the project so successfully.

[1]“Tang Yin and Wen Zhenqming as Artist Types: A Reconsideration,” Chinese translation to appear in Wu School Symposium volume to be published by Palace Museum, Beijing. English text published in Artibus Asiae 43, 1/2, pp. 228-248.

[2]A series of letters exchanged between myself, Richard Barnhart, and Howard Rogers on this and related issues was given a limited publication as The Barnhart-Cahill-Rogers Correspondence, 1981, Berkeley, Institute of East Asian Studies, 1982.

[3]Richard M. Barnhart et. al., Painters of the Great Ming: The Imperial Court and the Zhe School, exhibition catalog, Dallas, Dallas Museum of Art, 1993.

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