Signature: Leaf a) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Buddhist Temple on a Clear Evening after Oubolaoren [Zhao Mengfu, 1254–1322] Executed Spring of 1674
Leaf b) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Sand Banks and Rocks after Chiweng [Huang Gongwang, 1269–1354]
Leaf c) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Shady Summer Woods after Shuming [Wang Meng, ca. 1308–1385]
Leaf d) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Pavilion Amid Woods and Verdant Peaks Following the Brush Ideas of Guan Tong (10th century)
Leaf e) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Deserted Mountain, Old Trees and Village after Zhuran [active ca. 960–80] Mountain torrent and deserted mountain path; using the brush manner of Zhuran to write the poetic idea of Shaoling [Du Fu, 712–770]
Leaf f) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Cloudy Mountains after Gaokegong [Gao Kegong, 1248–1310]
When mountains put forth clouds, clouds put forth mountains,
Transformed into continuous rain they encompass all mankind;
From this one knows that the gods assembled banners and pendants
Are not in golden halls or rooms of jade.
After Gao [Kegong] Xiangshu
Leaf g) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Peach Blossom Spring following Zhao Chengzhi's Methods of Using Color
[Zhao (Mengfu) Chengzhi, 1254–1322]
When spring comes, peach blossom waters are everywhere;
If this is not an immortal's spring, what piece is?
Leaf h) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Level Vista with Trees and Water Buffalo after Zhao Danian [Zhao (Lingrang) active ca. 1070–1100]
Leaf i) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Wintry Grove on Ancient Banks after Li Xianxi [Cheng, ca. 919–967]
Leaf j) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Snowy Studio in a Mountain Village after Wang Youcheng [Wei, 699–759] "This painting bears a second inscription by Wang Hui: Youweng laoren [Wang Shimin] gave me a blank album and asked for some paintings. At the time I was traveling in Yangzhou and wasn't able to comply. This spring I received an express letter [from him] so I quickly did these small scenes after various masters. Your disciple's embarrassing brush and ink is not worthy of entering your collection. Done by a rainy window on the 5th day of the 2nd month of jiajin year (March 5, 1674)."
Leaf k) Wang Shimin (1592–1680): Wintry Grove after Li Xianxi [Li (Cheng) Xianxi, ca. 919–967]
Leaf l) Wang Shimin (1592–1680): Shady Summer Woods after Zhao Chengzhi [Zhao 9Mengfu) Chengzhi, 1254–1322] "This album in the manner of various famous masters' brush styles was begun in mid-autumn of 1674. I stopped then completed the last four leaves three years later. Altogether these are twelve paintings. Now it is the sixth day of the fourth lunar month of the dingzi year (May 7, 1677)". Written by Wang Shimin
Leaf m) Wang Hui (1632–1717): Colophon dated 1714
In 1674, when Master Fengchang [Wang Shimin] asked me to do this album, he was just 83 sui [i.e. 82 years old]. That was forty years ago. Now I am 83 [sui]. The master's grandson Qiuya has taken this out to show me. Examining again my earlier inscriptions done so many years ago I am overwhelmed with sadness and feel that the bonds of brush and ink which connect me with three generations of the Wang family cannot have been an accident. The 8th day of the 10th month (November 14) .
Inscription: Sheets of the mounting preceding and following the paintings and Wang Hui's colophon sheet have been embellished by later collector's colophons.
Zhang Zeren (hao Guyu, active mid-19th century), album cover title strip, 4 lines in regular script, dated 1865:
An album of landscapes by Wumu shanren [Wang Hui] in the manner of ten masters of the Tang, Song and Yuan dynasties and including two leaves by Xilulaoren [Wang Shimin]; this fine, authentic work was acquired by the Master of the Western Garden in the 8th lunar month of 1865".
Leaf n) Lu Shihua (1714–1779): Two title strips, two lines in regular script: Wang [Hui] Shigu's Interpretations of the Ancients" and "Wang [Shimin] Fengchang's Interpretations of the Ancients"
Leaf o) Li Moyüan [Xiyüan Zhuren, active mid-19th century]: 21 lines in running script, dated November 9, 1865):
Shige [Wang Hui] did this album in the second lunar month of the jiayin year of the Kangxi reign period (1674); at the time he was exactly 43 [sui, i.e. 42 years old]. With a keen spirit he pursued the essential character and boundless spirit of all the great masters of the Tang, Song, Yuan and Ming until he got it just right. Since he did this album at the request of Yenweng [Wang Shimin] he put all his energies into it; it is not something one can talk about in the same year with common works. There are altogether twelve paintings with interpretations of ten masters [in this album.] Yange [Wang Shimin] treasured them to the extent that in mid-autumn of the same year he began [his own] twelve interpretations which he completed three years later and kept in his collection. After his estate was divided these albums were passed on to Wang Shimin's fourth son. [Wang Shimin's] grandson, Qiuya, who is mentioned in Wang Hui's colophon is the son of this fourth son.
After I acquired this album my friend Zhang [Zeren] saw it and remarked that it was a treasure that had been handed down within the Wang family. In another gentleman's record of the division of calligraphies and paintings [from Wang Shimin's estate], a record one can trust, it states that of the fifteen scrolls and albums by Wang Hui in the list, this album was given to the fourth son; it further states that the title of the first leaf was "Buddhist Temple on a Clear Evening". Happily my album contains the same painting [title]. Furthermore, the division [of the estate] was in 1680 and Wang Hui inscribed this album again in 1714, some thirty years later when Qiuya brought it out for him to see. This matches perfectly the [elapsed] time since the estate's division, so there can be no doubt that this is the same album treasured by several generations. Unfortunately, only two leaves remain from Wang Shimin's twelve paintings—those in the manner of Fan Kuan and Huang Gongwang—were taken by Zhang Zeren so that alas, the original creation is no longer complete. But this kind of treasure is watched over by ghosts and spirits and jealously guarded by heaven and earth. If you survey all the collectors' seals from the time it was acquired by the Lu [Shihua] family of Taicang, [it is evident that] in no more than a few decades it has already changed owners three times (i.e. from Lu Shihua to Cheng Zhenyi to Zhang Zhiwan and finally, to Li Moyuan). During that time there was also civil unrest and it might easily have been destroyed. It makes on frightened to think of it. Indeed, who am I to possess this? In seeking to return the album to its original perfection so as to avoid arousing jealousy of the gods I have returned "Buddhist Temple on a Clear Evening" to its old position at the beginning [of the album] and placed the two leaves by Wang Shimin at the end in order to show how our forbearers learned from one another. On the 21st day of the Chrysanthemum (8th lunar) month of the Yiqiu cyclical year, the 4th year in the Tongzhi reign period (November 9, 1865) Xi Yuan zhuren [the Studio of the Great Su [Shi] and Little Mi [Youren]. The two titlestrips are an early Qing man's brush and ink so I have mounted them on the first page; the two-character seal [on each titlestrip], "Tingsong" was cut by Mr. Lu Runzhi [Shihua] who was the inscriber.
Leaf p) Li Moyuan, 22 lines in running script dated June 3, 1870:
On the day of the Duanyuan [spring] festival in the gengwu cyclical year, the 9th year of the Tongzhi reign period (June 3, 1870), my friend Zhu Zhifu brought by an album of ten leaves by Wang Shimin for me to see, saying that it was the remaining [leaves from the album to which] mine belongs. Upon examining the small scenes interpreting various masters, they were nearly identical with those by Wang Hui; moreover, the hoary and old [style of the] inscriptions and the indistinct seals were no different from my [two leaves by Wang Shimin]. But at the back of this album [Wang Shimin had] inscribed several lines in a different month from those on the final painting [in my set] so I couldn't be absolutely certain [they were from the same album] so I took my Wang Hui album and compared it with this one; then I could see that these two sages' works were in complete agreement. According to the year and month [of their execution] it was Wang Hui who first made interpretations of the ancients for Wang Shimin and them Wang Shimin who made twelve interpretations after [Wang Hui]. Because of [Wang Shimin's] advanced years and dim eyesight he couldn't follow the finer passages. Therefore there are only six leaves which he copied closely while for the rest he used the original composition but modified it or even followed some other model. Among his interpretations, six leaves—"Buddhist Temple on a Clear Evening after Zhao Mengfu", "Sand Banks and Rocks" and "Evening Colors on Pure Peaks", both after Huang Gongwang, "Deserted Mountains and Old Trees after Zhuran", "Level Vista with Trees and Water Buffalo after Zhao Lingrang", and "Wintry Grove after Li Cheng"—are the same. But even among these there are small differences. In "Buddhist Temple on a Clear Evening" the rocks and banks on the right side [of Wang Shimin's version] lack several layers, he didn't paint two fishing boats below the central peak and the blue and green coloring is heavier. In "Sand Banks and Rocks" the deep red color is applied thicker. In the painting after Zhuran the trees and village in the lower right are less detailed, "Level Vista with Trees and Water Buffalo" has been changed to a spring scene with the flying birds omitted and the water done in thick ink, while "Wintry Grove" has been changed into a snowscape.
Among the remaining six paintings, "Shady Summer Woods after Wang Meng" has been changed to a picture of bamboo, the painting in the manner of Guan Tong has been changed to a picture of cranes after Jing Hao and Guan Tong in the freely-sketched (xieyi) style of brush and ink, and in "Cloudy Mountains after Gao Kegong" the clouds have become more vaporous and the blue-and-green color thicker. "Peach Blossom Spring after Zhao Mengfu" has been changed to "Shady Summer Woods after Zhao Mengfu" with colors applied in the freely-sketched manner. [Wang Hui's] paintings after Fan Kuan and Wang Wei have been replaced by "Pavilion amid Streams and Mountains after Ni Zan" and "Tree and Rock after Wu Zhen". This is all part of making creative transformations in the process of imitation.
Viewing the two albums together, one is so elegant you can taste it, one possesses the free-ranging quality of an old man's brush; truly they show the fully realized genius of these two masters. Wouldn't it be wonderful if both could be returned to one man! The Wang Shimin album is now in the collection of Zhang Xianbo of Jiaxing. This man is a descendant of Zhang Shuwei [Tingzhi, 1768–1848] and also knows about collecting. He is young, but he's well off. I'm afraid at present the two albums cannot be reunited. But he has only ten leaves; "Wintry Grove" and "Summer Woods" are mine. But my Wang Hui album also is missing two leaves, which is a big imperfection in the world.
At the end of his note, Li appends a transcription of the colophon that Wang Shimin added after the last leaf of his original album. In this inscription Wang Shimin notes that illness and weakening eyesight were responsible for the delay in the completion of his album. This addendum is dated to the 5th lunar month of 1677, one month after his inscription on his album's final painting (see leaf l).
Leaf q) Blank except for one seal of Cheng Zhenyi
Leaf r) Li Qingduo (active late 19th century), fifteen lines in regular script on green ruled paper, dated 1881:
This large album of 12 leaves by Wang Hui and Wang Shimin is an authentic and outstanding work. In the beginning it was a treasure transmitted within the Wang family of Taicang. Next it was in the collections of Lu Shihua and Cheng Zhenyi.
At the beginning of the 5th lunar month in the 4th year of the Tongzhi period (May 1865) [our family] acquired this in Giangsu Province. Guyu, Zhang Zeren, the county magistrate saw it and liked it so much he wanted it for his own collection. He even wrote several letters asking for it.
My father, Moyuan placed it on the left side of his table and every time he wasn't busy he would go over it several times. He is responsible for all the investigations recorded on the first two leaves. This album of fine interpretations after various masters of the Tang, Song and Yuan is incomplete, but one cannot feel badly, for it still contains the majority of the leaves and that is enough to feel satisfied about. In the spring of the 12th year [of the Tongzhi reign period, 1873] my maternal great uncle Zhang Yunong took the album to sell. Everyone who saw it said that [the album] was without a doubt authentic, and furthermore that it was one of the best works by these two gentlemen. After this [Zhang] treasured the album and kept it in his collection. Not only would he not sell it, but he wouldn't return it to its owner. I suppose that paintings by famous men are public property and even if you force it away from somebody, it is difficult to keep it for yourself. Therefore, whenever I wrote a letter asking for it back, he always said it was inconvenient. And so I had to ask my brother-in-law, Zhang Yongnan to travel south of the mountains to Haifeng County [in Guandong Province], over a thousand li from the capital [i.e. Beijing]. That he was covered with dust and suffered every kind of hardship goes without saying. Furthermore, his round trip cost over 20 pieces of gold. Finally, on the 12th day of the Guangxu reign period (May 9, 1881) it was returned.
When you carefully examine the album it is like a fresh breeze coming into the sitting room or like meeting an old friend; moreover, owning it is a great piece of luck. This album was in the Li family collection, but since it nearly didn't return from a long leave, it was nearly lost by the Li family. The original album has come back, but it certainly was a close call and a great piece of good fortune. Now I realize that in this world everything has its rightful owner. He who wanted to sell it on consignment hid it; what a wasted effort to no avail. On the 23rd day of the 4th month of the 7th year of the Guangxu reign period (May 20, 1881), written by Li Jisong [Qingduo] of Lu He [in Hebei or Shanxi].
Leaf rr) Weng Tonghe (1830–1904): Five lines in regular script, datable to the first lunar month of 1882.