Painter 鈥淏a Da Shan Ren鈥 09-21-2004 15:45

Qingyunpu is an age-old Taoist temple in the suburbs of Nanchang City in Jiangxi Province. It was built over 1,700 years ago. The fame of Qingyunpu is due to Ba Da Shan Ren a prominent calligrapher and painter who lived at the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty. With Zhu Da as his original name, Ba Da Shan Ren was a descendant of the imperial clan of the Ming Dynasty. Ba Da Shan Ren was his alternative name and it was by this name that he was most well known to the public.

In 1644, troops of the Qing regime entered the Shanhaiguan Pass and the Ming Dynasty finally fell. Nineteen-year-old Ba Da Shan Ren witnessed the fall of the Ming Dynasty almost overnight. As a descendant of the imperial clan of the previous dynasty, he began to live in exile and seclusion. At first he became a Buddhist monk but after awhile he returned to secular life. In the end, however, he became a Taoist priest and spent most of the latter half of his life in the secluded Taoist temple. He was haunted by his sorrow for the fall of the Ming Dynasty. Previously he had been a son from a noble family but now he had become a lonely, apathetic and eccentric man. While he could hardly change his fate he could, nevertheless, refuse to submit to degradation. Perhaps the white paper and the black ink were the only tools he could use to express his sentiments.

Wang Kaixuan (Deputy Curator, Ba Da Shan Ren Museum):

Once a relative of the emperor, Ba Da Shan Ren became a man whose family had been broken up and destroyed. He was in this mood all his life. Look at his inscribed name. When the four characters Ba Da Shan Ren were written together, they looked like two characters meaning 鈥渃ry鈥 and 鈥渓augh鈥. They implied that he did not know whether to laugh or cry. They were metaphorically used to refer to his lot in life. From his paintings, especially his landscape paintings, we can feel the void in Buddhism, the non-action of Taoism and the simplicity and elegance in Confucianism.

Ba Da Shan Ren鈥檚 works were known for their peculiar style. It seemed that their ingenious composition was designed to build a precarious atmosphere. Probably this was a true revelation of the feelings he cherished when he lived in exile.

The unusual style of Ba Da Shan Ren鈥檚 works can also be seen in his paintings of flowers and birds. The images of animals he depicted were grotesque and exaggerated. Beauty was perceived only in ugliness. The scornful look rendered a feeling of indifference and aloofness. This unique technique of portrayal was symbolic of his paintings.

Succinctness was another feature of Ba Da Shan Ren鈥檚 works. With just a few strokes, he could execute a painting of flowers and birds or a landscape painting. But it was almost impossible to reduce a single stroke from the painting.

In 1705, Ba Da Shan Ren passed away after a long period of secluded life. His artistic achievements, however, have stood the test of time. He was not the most well-known painter during his lifetime, but his works produced a profound impact on traditional Chinese painting. His literary style of painting reached a high standard of freehand brushwork. His great achievements became a precious legacy in the history of Chinese fine arts.

Editor:Xiang Jing

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