In 1674, Wang Hui painted an old-masters album of twelve leaves for his teacher Wang Shimin. Though already in his forties when he made this album, Wang Hui still attempted to impress his teacher with his range and technical facility. Three years later, Wang Shimin made his own album in response, painted in a broader style suited to his failing vision. Portions of the two original albums were lost over the centuries, and the ten surviving leaves by Wang Hui and two by Wang Shimin were combined into the album on view here. It is a touching artifact of the unique bond between a teacher and his student.
Inscription: Artists’ inscriptions and signatures
Leaf A: Wang Hui (2 columns in standard script):
Buddhist Temple on a Clear Evening, after Oubo Laoren [Zhao Mengfu, 1254–1322]
Leaf B: Wang Hui (1 column in standard script):
Sand Banks and Rocks, after Chiweng [Huang Gongwang, 1269–1354]
Leaf C: Wang Hui (2 columns in standard script):
Shady Summer Woods, after Shuming [Wang Meng, about 1308–1385]
Leaf D: Wang Hui (3 columns in standard script):
Clouds girdle a thousand green peaks; A single pavilion amid the autumn-tipped trees. Following the brush ideas of Guan Tong [active ca. 907–23]
Leaf E: Wang Hui (4 columns in standard script):
Mountain torrent and deserted mountain path Through old trees to a village’s bramble gate. Using the brush manner of Juran [active ca. 960–85] to evoke the poetic ideas of Shaoling [Du Fu, 712–770]
Leaf F: Wang Hui (4 columns in standard script):
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 pennants Are not in golden halls or rooms of jade. After Minister Gao [Kegong, 1248–1310]
山出雲時雲出山，化為霖雨遍人寰。 端知帝所旌幢會，不在金堂玉室間。 倣高尚書。
Leaf G: Wang Hui (3 columns in standard script):
When spring comes, peach blossom waters are everywhere; If this is not an immortal’s spring, what place is? Following Recipient of Edicts Zhao’s [Zhao Mengfu’s] methods of using colors.
Leaf H: Wang Hui (2 columns in standard script):
Level Vista with Trees and Water Buffalo, after Zhao Danian [Zhao Lingrang, active ca. 1070–after 1100]
Leaf I: Wang Hui (2 columns in standard script):
Wintry Grove on Ancient Banks, after Li Xianxi [Li Cheng, 919–967]
Leaf J: Wang Hui (12 columns in standard script):
Mountain Village after Snow, after Vice Minister Wang [Wang Wei, 701–761]
Yanweng Laoren [Wang Shimin] gave me a blank album and asked for some paintings. At the time I was traveling in Weiyang [Yangzhou] and was not able to comply. This spring I received an urgent 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 fifth day of the second [lunar] month of the jiayin year [March 5, 1674]. Your pupil, Wang Hui of Yushan.
Leaf K: Wang Shimin (1 column in standard script):
After Li Xianxi’s [Li Cheng’s] Wintry Grove
Leaf L: Wang Shimin (10 columns in standard script):
After Recipient of Edicts Zhao’s [Zhao Mengfu’s] Shady Summer Woods
This album in the manner of various famous masters’ brush styles was begun in midautumn of 1674. I stopped, then completed the last four leaves three years later. Altogether there are twelve paintings. Now it is the sixth day of the fourth [lunar] month of the dingsi year [May 7, 1677]. Written by Wang Shimin.
Leaf M: Wang Hui’s colophon, dated 1714 (5 columns in standard script):
In 1674, when master Fengchang [Wang Shimin] asked me to do this album, he was just 83 sui [eighty-two 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 that connect me with three generations of the Wang family cannot have been an accident. The eighth day of the tenth [lunar] month [November 14, 1714].
Wang Hui 王翬 Shiguzi 石谷子 [Leaf A, C, D, F, G, I, J (twice)] Wang Hui zhi yin 王翬之印 (square, intaglio) [Leaf B, C, D, E, F, G, J (twice)] Wang Hui zhi yin 王翬之印 (square, relief) Leaf M] Wang Shigu 王石谷 (triple seal) [Leaf D, H] Shangxia qiannian 上下千年 [Leaf M] Gengyan Sanren shinian bashi you san 耕煙散人時年八十有三 [Leaf M]
Wang Shimin 王時敏 Yanke 煙客 [Leaf K] Wang Shimin yin 王時敏印 [Leaf L]
Zhang Zeren 張澤仁 (active mid-19th c.), 4 columns in standard script, dated 1865; 1 seal (on album cover):
An album of landscapes by the Mountain Man of Mount Wumu [Wumu Shanren (Wang Hui)] in the manner of ten masters of the Tang, Song, and Yuan dynasties. This fine, authentic work was acquired by the master of the Western Garden [Xi Yuan Zhuren (Li Moyuan, active mid-nineteenth century)] in the fourth year of the Tongzhi reign era, the eighth [lunar] month of the yichou year [September 20–October 19, 1865]. Guyu [Zhang Zeren] inscribed the label. Also included are two leaves [of paintings] after old masters by Xilu Laoren [Wang Shimin]
1. Lu Shihua 陸時化 (1714–1779), 2 columns in standard script, undated; 2 seals (Leaf N):
Wang Shigu’s [Wang Hui’s] interpretations of the ancients Vice Minister Wang’s [Wang Shimin’s] interpretations of the ancients
王石谷倣古。[印]： 聽松 王奉常倣古。[印]： 聽松
2. Li Moyuan 李墨緣 (active mid-nineteenth century), 21 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1865; 2 seals (Leaf O):
Shigu [Wang Hui] did this album in the second [lunar] month of the jiayin year of the Kangxi reign period ; at the time he was exactly 43 [sui. forty-two 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 Yanweng [Wang Shimin], he put all his energies into it; it is not something one can talk about in the same year as common works. There are altogether twelve paintings with interpretations of ten masters [in this album]. Yanke [Wang Shimin] treasured them to the extent that in the midautumn 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 Guyu [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 [a] painting [with the same 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, while two of Wang Hui’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 [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 one 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 the 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 forebearers learned from one another.
On the twenty-first day of the chrysanthemum [eight lunar] month of the yiqiu cyclical year, the fourth year in the Tongzhi reign period [November 9, 1865] the Master of the Western Garden [Xi Yuan Zhuren] wrote this at the Studio of Great Su [Shi, 1037–1101] and Little Mi [Youren, 1074–1151].
The two title strips are an early Qing man’s brush and ink, so I have mounted them on the first page; the two-character seal [on each title strip] Listening to Pines [Tingsong] was cut by Mr. Lu Runzhi [Shihua], who was the inscriber.
3. Li Moyuan 李墨緣 (active mid-19th c.), 22 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1870 (Leaf P):
On the day of the Duanyang [spring] festival in the gengwu cyclical year, the ninth year of the Tongzhi reign period [June 3, 1870], my friend Zhu Dingfu 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 belonged. Upon examining the small scenes interpreting various masters, [I realized that] 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 [those on 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.
Judging by the year and month [of their execution], it was Wang Hui who first made interpretations of the ancients for Wang Shimin and then 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 that 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 [Leaf A], Sand Banks and Rocks [Leaf B], and Evening Colors on Pure Peaks [not in present album], both after Huang Gongwang, Deserted Mountain and Old Trees after Juran [Leaf E], Level Vista with Trees and Water Buffalo after Zhao Lingrang [Leaf H], and Wintry Grove after Li Cheng [Leaf I]—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 did not 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 more thickly. In the painting after Juran 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 [active ca. 907–23] has been changed to a picture of cranes after Jing Hao [active ca. 870–ca. 930] 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.
When the two albums are viewed 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. Would it not be wonderful if both could be returned to one man! The Wang Shimin album is now in the collection of Zhang Xianbo [active mid-nineteenth century] of Jiaxing. This man is a descendant of Zhang Shuwei [Tingji, 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.
Appended here is [a transcription] of Yanke’s [Wang Shimin’s] inscription at the end [of his original album]:
Since my energy declined, I have put away my brushes and ink stones and have for a long time neglected to paint grand landscapes. On top of it, my weakening eyesight makes it even more difficult to paint. Occasionally when the weather has been lovely, I have been inspired by the moment to paint small scenes after old masters to amuse myself. After a period of time they have accumulated into an album, in which I take great delight. When my grandson, [Wang] Yuanqi [1642–1715], was recommended for service in the capital, [his father,] my son [Wang] Kui [[jinshi, 1655], eagerly asked for it for Mr. Xueweng, whose family and mine have been friends for generations, saw and eagerly asked for it, thinking the young man would benefit from viewing it. I therefore gave the album to him for his generous correction, as if receiving his instructions personally. I knew that [my work] was too bad even for a laugh. During the Kangxi reign era, in the summer, the fifth [lunar] month, of the dingsi year [May 31–June 29, 1677], Shimin again inscribed at the age of eighty-six.
4. Li Qingduo 李慶多 (active late 19th c.), 15 columns in standard script on green ruled paper, dated 1881; 2 seals (Leaf R):
This large album of twelve 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 fifth [lunar] month in the fourth year of the Tongzhi reign period [May 1865] [our family] acquired this in Jiangsu 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 was not 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 twelfth year [of the Tongzhi reign period (1873)] my maternal great uncle Zhang Younong 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 would not return it to its owner. I suppose that paintings by famous men are public property and even if you take it forcibly 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 Guangdong Province], over a thousand li from the capital [Beijing]. That he was covered with dust and suffered every kind of hardship goes without saying. Furthermore his roundtrip cost over twenty pieces of gold. Finally, on the twelfth day of the fourth lunar month of the seventh year 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 did not return from a long leave, it nearly was 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 twenty-third day of the fourth [lunar] month of the seventh year of the Guangxu reign period [May 20, 1881], written by Li Jisong [Qingduo] of Luhe [in Hebei or Shanxi].
5. Weng Tonghe 翁同龢 (1830–1904), 5 columns in semi-cursive script, datable to 1882; 1 seal (Leaf RR):
I bought this album in the first [lunar] month of the spring of the renshen year [sic] in the Guangxu era. The dealer asked for a high price, and I purchased it with the money for my living costs. I have loved Lutai’s [Wang Yuanqi’s] painting all my life, but do not find Gengyan’s [Wang Hui] work very satisfactory, considering it inflicted with painterly mannerisms. In my collection, however, there are more great pieces by Gengyan, such as this album and the scroll Ten Thousand Miles of the Yangzi River. Weng Tonghe recorded on the twenty-first day of this month.
Weng Wange 翁萬戈 (Wan-go Weng, b. 1918–) Weng Wange jianshang 翁萬戈鑑賞 [Leaf A–L] Weng Wange cang 翁萬戈藏 [Leaf M, O, P]
Unidentified Lu Poye yulao 陸朴埜娛老 [Leaf E] Qingchuang yiri jihui kan 晴窗一日幾囘看 [Leaf M] Tong Chen Weihan miu fu si tian 同陳微翰謬附斯天 [Leaf O]
 Translations from Department records published in Maxwell K. Hearn, ed., Landscapes Clear and Radiant: The Art of Wang Hui (1632–1717), New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008, no. 15, pp. 200–204.
[ Wan-go H. C. Weng , Lyme, NH, until 1989; sold to MMA]
Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," April 2, 1996–July 7, 1996.
Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," August 3, 1996–November 10, 1996.
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New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.