Signature: Signed, dated 1260, three artist's seals
Kang Jie'an of my hometown, a painter of ink plum blossoms, asked me for a poem, so I decided to explain what is important and what is unimportant in this art.
Taochan [Yang Buzhi, 1097-1169] followed
Huaguang [Monk Zhongren, ca. 1051-1123]
And captured his master's pure resonance.
Jian'an [Tang Zhengzhong, ca. mid-late 12th
century] studied with Taochan
And learned his teacher's clarity of composition.
Looking at his jade petals and mouse-whisker
One knows he possessed greater skill
His branches twist like deer horns
Giving vitality to his paintings.
Although orthodoxy is not important,
Compared to the true method [of Yang and Tang]
the others are not proper.
Monk Ting's flowers are skillful but his branches
[Liu] Mengliang has good ideas but his technique
Among lady painters, Madame Bao
has been able to inherit her master's method.
Unfortunately there are those whom I have heard
of, but never met:
There is a Yi Kongji of Jiangsi.
[Yang] Zhiheng was first to be coarse,
distasteful, and clumsy;
[Yao] Xuepeng is even worse.
This is like the saying [of Zhang Rong: "I regret
that] the two Wangs did not have my
How many girls who lived near the beautiful
Xishi tried to compare with her?
If there is something interesting, how can it fail to
One must have an eye to discover it.
A flower has only seven stamens and three sepals;
New buds resemble peppercorns, branch tips look
like rat tails.
Branches are painted in three layers by varying
the ink from dark to light:
Depict both the fronts and backs of flowers as well
as variously shaped buds.
You already comprehend these secrets;
To repeat it all would be verbose.
Which families will have your screen paintings?
My poem may be used to explain your art.
[A painting] is more than just brushstrokes;
Vertical and horizontal lines on a scroll are not
[Looking at a painting] one should feel the room
fill with the atmosphere of springtime
Or recall passing through plum blossoms in
From beginning to end, Yang and Tang's
methods should be followed;
Continue studying hard; how can skill be
mastered in just one day?
Kang Jie'an seemed not to comprehend my poem, but Xu Meigu asked me for another poem on the same subject, so I wrote the following:
Use dark ink for blossoming branches, light ink for
For old trunks with scales and wrinkles, use ink
that's slightly burnt.
Petals are depicted with three strokes,separate but
The pearl-like new buds are made with peppercorn dots.
Clustered strokes as fine as bee whiskers, like a smiling
face with a dimple, [make the heart of the flower];
The long branch tip is executed with one stroke steadily
dragged like a rat's tail.
Blossoms in the wind should all face the same direction;
Half the branch may be covered with snow.
[When painted] together with pine and bamboo, plum
blossoms must be arranged properly;
When floating on the water make them swirl and turn.
When painting evening scenery, accompany them with
a bright moon;
Along clear shallow mountain streams include a long or
A group of blossoming branches painted close to each
other have a clamorous and cheerful feeling;
Serene back-to-back branches appear listless
Though the brushwork be elegant.
I wrote the following for the bamboo painter Wang Cuiyan, who asked for a poem on this subject:
The most ancient paintings showed objects without
Later, forms were depicted closely following the actual
Later still, people followed the methods of early masters,
Tracing their footprints as though stamping a seal on clay.
But a close copy is like rebuilding the same house;
When new ideas are added, the work is more satisfying.
It has been several hundred years since the Wei
[386-556] and Jin [265-420] dynasties.
Who can carry on the calligraphic tradition of Wang Xizhi [303?-361?] and Wang Xianzhi [344-386]?
People nowadays forget the poetry of Li Bo [701-762]
and Du Fu [712-770];
They are eager to study the new style of the Jianghu
I hope you can plant a thousand acres of bamboo
like those growing along the Wei River;
After a meal you can relax and take a walk.
In wind, clear weather, mist and rain [,all the
aspects of bamboo,] will be within your heart;
The luxuriant and upright nature of bamboo will
come forth freely from your brush.
Oh, how common Zizhang looks when Yuan Dafu
These three poems may be seen as a treatise on plum and bamboo painting. However, those who do not have poetry in their hearts will be confounded when they see these poems. Several months after Cuiyan received my poem, he suddenly asked me: "What I requested was a poem on bamboo painting. Why did you write about the poems of Li Bo and Du Fu?" My cousin Huangfu, who has been studying here with me, learned that I had composed these poems, and he delightedly asked me to write them down. I worry that I too may not have a poetic nature and will also be confounded. Those who understand poetry may correct me. I am old now and do not wish to say too much. Written by Zhao Mengjian, Zigu, Yizhai jushi of the royal family, by candlelight at ten o'clock on the sixth day of the tenth month, the first year of the Jingding era , while staying with the Wang family of Salt Bridge [in Hangzhou].
(Kwan S. Wong, trans., in Masterpieces of Sung
and Yuan Dynasty Calligraphy from the John M. Crawford Jr. Collection [New York: China Institute in America, 1981], pp. 53-54.)
Qian Yingsun (1227–1291), dated 1288
Zhao Mengyong (d. 1277), dated 1268
Dong Kai (1226–ca. 1268), dated 1268
Zhao Mengchun (younger brother of Zhao Mengjian), dated 1268
Ye Longli (jinshi degree, 1247), dated 1267
Wu Liangcai (early 14th century), dated 1301
Zhang Hanqing (1364–after 1424), dated 1424
Marking: Collectors' seals:
Xiang Yuanbian (1525–1590)
Xiang Shengmo (1597–1658)
Yu Ding (17th century)
Bian Yongyu (1645–1712)
Qianlong emperor (r. 1736–95)
Xuantong emperor (r. 1909011)
John M. Crawford, Jr.
Unidentified, 3 seals