In the seventeenth century, painters from Anhui began to exploit the album’s special qualities to represent the Yellow Mountains (Huangshan), vista by vista, one leaf at a time. This example, by the relatively little-known artist Zheng Min, ranks among the best Huangshan albums; its compositional originality and subtle brushwork unfolds over a journey of eight distinct parts. Zheng Min combined the signature dry brush technique of the Anhui School’s founder Hongren with subtle ink washes to create a less austere, more descriptive style. Adding to the album’s appeal is the artist’s lengthy inscription, on the final leaf,which explains the story of the album’s creation.
In this long inscription, written to accompany the album, Zheng Min explains the circumstances of its creation: [Summary]: In 1681, Zheng was approached by a younger friend named Chuzhen, who asked the master to paint two albums: one for him, and one for a friend. He obliged, painting this album for Chuzhen in the hopes of spurring his interest in Mount Huang, where the young man had never been. Zheng Min himself had been there only twice, the most recent trip more than seven years earlier. He painted this album from memory. In his inscription, he writes, “In the future, after all his children get married, if Chuzhen ever travels there, I hope he will take this album with him to check against the actual sites. I will then become his tour guide.” —Trans. by Shi-yee Liu
This artwork is meant to be viewed from right to left. Scroll left to view more.
Leaf a. Pines at the Heavenly Gate
Leaf b. Fishing Terrace
Leaf c. Lotus Peak
Leaf d. Immortal’s Bridge and the Spring of Sounding Strings
Leaf e. Stele of King Xuanyuan
Leaf f. Nine-dragon Pool
Leaf g. Twisting Dragon Pine
Leaf h. Heavenly Citadel Peak
Leaf i (artist's inscription). In this long inscription, written to accompany the album, Zheng Min explains the circumstances of its creation. See following page for a summary. In 1681, Zheng was approached by a younger friend named Chuzhen, who asked the master to paint two albums: one for him, and one for a friend. He obliged, painting this album for Chuzhen in the hopes of spurring his interest in Mount Huang, where the young man had never been. Zheng Min himself had been there only twice, the most recent trip more than seven years earlier. He painted this album from memory. In his inscription, he writes, “In the future, after all his children get married, if Chuzhen ever travels there, I hope he will take this album with him to check against the actual sites. I will then become his tour guide.”
Leaf j (inscription by Deng Shi)
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鄭旼 黃山八景 水墨紙本 九開冊
Title:Eight views of the Yellow Mountains
Artist:Zheng Min (Chinese, 1633–1683)
Period:Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Medium:Album of nine leaves of painting and calligraphy; ink on paper
Dimensions:Image (leaf a): 9 1/2 × 5 1/2 in. (24.1 × 14 cm) Overall with mounting (a): 12 1/4 × 14 5/8 in. (31.1 × 37.1 cm) Overall with mounting (leaves b–h): 12 1/8 × 14 3/8 in. (30.8 × 36.5 cm) Image (i frontispiece): 10 1/8 × 12 1/4 in. (25.7 × 31.1 cm) Image (j inscription by the artist): 10 3/8 × 12 1/2 in. (26.4 × 31.8 cm) Overall with mounting (i and j): 14 5/8 × 12 1/4 in. (37.1 × 31.1 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, The Vincent Astor Foundation Gift and Susan Dillon Gift, in honor of James C. Y. Watt, 2012
Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions and signatures (69 columns in standard script and 1 column in seal script)
Leaf A (5 columns in standard script):
Pines at the Heavenly Gate
Through a perilous journey I arrive at the Heavenly Gate, Where a pair of pines stands upright and solemn. They soothe my mind at this moment. Putting my staff aside, I bow to them in reverence. Min
天門松 歷險到天門，雙松端以立。今朝慰所思，植杖一顛揖。 旼
Leaf AA (8 columns in standard script):
A path under the blocked sky barely accommodates a passenger; Sparse roots across the cliff-walls are the only tool to keep balance. Ancient cypresses and the shrine in Kuizhou [in Sichuan, constructed to commemorate Zhuge Liang, 181-234] should be its companions. How strange that it easily moved out of Longzhong [in Hubei, Zhuge Liang’s early residence in reclusion].
The Reclining-dragon [Zhuge Liang’s self-adopted name] Pine
弇天一徑許人通， 走壁孤根僅措躬。 古柏夔祠當與配， 怪他容易出隆中。
Extraordinary light shines in grand patterns; The ocean of clouds exudes heavenly aroma. Things in the past bring regrets; Current news is heard in passing. Sunlight over the peaks reddens my cap; Clouds in the valley dampens my shoes. The pursuit of enlightenment is like opening a window: Every inch of progress takes effort.
The Heavenly Gate is a stone gate that one has to pass on his way to the Heavenly Citadel Peak. A path ascends from the south to reach its summit. A visitor arrives at the Heavenly Gate first, enters the site of Cloud-lifting Window, passes the Thread-like Sky, and watches the Reclining-dragon Pine. A composition on the pine had better be made afterwards. My trip took place on the nineteenth of the eighth month. I stayed at the Manjushri Monastery. The moon shone brightly as if it were daytime. I took a midnight stroll in the moonlight on a whim and almost reached the middle of the Heavenly Citadel Peak. That was how the poem “Sunrise at the Heavenly Gate” came into being. I have recorded it all. An additional note by Min.
Night shadows stir the hidden dragon in the autumn valley. Towering pavilions rise from the depth of myriad mountains. Unruffled by people’s ignorance, he engaged in pure dialogues at ease. There is no need to go to remote places to decline invitations to serve.
Inscription for The Pavilion for Playing with Waves Min
Layers of cloudy peaks cut across the blue sky. Washing feet in the stream, he was at ease with himself. Declining the offer of office, he was more esteemed than the recluse Jiao Guang (early 3rd c.). In reply he made clear his devotion to the Confucian classics. The sound of waves infuses the rapids where Yan Guang (1st half of 1st c.) used to fish; Mountain colors illuminate the heavenly realm of antiquity. Wandering alone atop the outcrop, I think of building a pavilion in the future to honor those who left opportunities to others.
The poem to the right was composed when I first visited the White-dragon Pool in Mount Huang in search of Master Wenzhen’s [Zheng Yu, 1298–1355] Fishing Terrace in the gengxu year . Inscribed by Min again.
Suspended ladders and wooden bridges connect the craggy cliffs; The Peak stands like the south-pointing needle of a compass. Rocky caves are hollow for passing through; The world under the wind and thunder is sunny here and cloudy there. Surveying the universe led to musings on Buddhist wisdom; Who had wasted all those years by putting off the ascent! From now on I will practice steadily to reach the summit, Not to forget my solemn determination at this moment.
Composed on reaching the summit of the Lotus Peak. Min
I used to watch the Immortal’s Bridge from afar; The paths, torn through the years, were no longer passable. Secret sites in the mountains cannot be few; I dream of crossing the stone bridge to reach Mt. Tiantai.
Shuye’s [Ji Kang, ca, 224-ca. 263] reputation spread regardless of Liu Ling (ca. 221-ca. 300). His zither music, the Guanglingsan, has vanished ever since his death. The sound from the remote antiquity rings in the empty mountains; The spring flowing down the rocks could pass for the zither.
Spring of Sounding Strings
The Immortal’s Bridge is more than ten li from the Spring of Sounding Strings. It can be seen in the distance but cannot be reached. The old guide told me that the paths had been unusable for many years after Mr. Wang Fuguang’s [Wang Muri, juren degree 1633] arrival. I therefore painted them together. Min inscribed.
仙橋我昔遠相望，徑斷年深不可杭。 山中祕蹟應非少，夢向天臺渡石梁。 仙橋
不必伶倫傳叔夜，廣陵散絕到于今。 空山太古遺音在，石上泉流嚮作琴。 鳴弦泉
Leaf EE (5 columns in standard script):
Xing fen [an ancient book on the universe attributed to Xuanyuan] has survived the passage of time; I envision the grand prospect of those days. Finding his way out of the wilderness of Xiang, he left us his dialogue with the great physician Qibo on medicine. Without Cangjie’s creation of the written words, the pictographic seal script wouldn’t have developed.
Stele of King Xuanyuan
The scholar Pan [Zhiheng, ca. 1536–ca. 1621] included Suwen (Dialogue on the essentials, an ancient text on medicine) in his book Huanghai (The cloud ocean of the Yellow Mountains), which is certainly not groundless. However, since Fen [San fen, the legendary writings of the three kings of antiquity] and Suo [Ba suo, the text on the eight trigrams] were earlier than the Five Classics, how could Suwen alone survive the massive book-burning during the Qin dynasty (221-206 B.C.E.)? But on the other hand, its chapters on the intercalary discrepancy, the almanac, and some other topics are sometimes superior to those in the two ancient texts, which does suggest certain authenticity. Confucian scholars should investigate this issue in depth. Min recorded.
Arriving here tired from the journey, I reflect upon the tortuous passage As one destined for the Peach Blossom Spring to assist in the water-pouring rite. The water from the nine branches of the deep pure stream is scoopable, But it feels like urging people to fill their wine-cups toward the end of the feast.
Nine-dragon Pool Min
倦遊於此憶廻腸，津逮桃源若祼將。 九派清流泓可掬，卻如筵徹勸盈觴。 九龍潭 旼
Leaf GG (2 columns in standard script):
How it rides a crane to rise skywards! Born at the dawn of the universe, it has an ancient visage. Looking around from above, it receives homage on all sides, While dispersing myriad incarnations into the human world.
Twisting-dragon Pine Min
何能跨鶴一躋攀，自闢洪蒙具古顔。 四面旋觀皆下拜，分身千億散人間。 繞龍松 旼
Leaf H (12 columns in standard script):
Ode to the Heavenly Citadel Peak
I am about to embark from Qianchuan [modern Qiankou, Anhui Province]. Watched from a hundred li away, it looks noble and solemn. Suspecting there would be no path for ascending, I composed a eulogy first by collecting lines from the Classic of Poetry:
Bright is that Heavenly Han River; Grandly it reaches to heaven. Its rocks are massed high; Oh, a myriad are his years. There is nothing that is not increased; They hewed them square, they cut them [into shape]. When I met him, Ascending, he was on the hill-tops.
Painted and inscribed by Min in the autumn, the seventh lunar month, of the xinyou year .
倬彼雲漢，峻極于天。 維石巖巖，于萬斯年。 以莫不增，方斵是虔。 亦既覯止，陟則在巘。
Leaf HH (6 columns in standard script):
The human world has gone through cycles of vicissitude; Only the Heavenly Citadel Peak retains its original ancient form. The grassy cliff walls are surely hard to climb in waxed clogs; The vines in the mist should catch the immortals’ garment. Relishing leisure, I wish I could discard the world early in life; To exhaust the principle of things should eventually illuminate the inquiry into the heavenly realm. When can I fulfill my promise to seek truth And to verify Cangjie’s words by the stone bed and the cinnabar tripod?
Gazing at the Heavenly Citadel Peak
I once read Mr. Jingsheng’s [Pan Zhiheng] record of ascending the summit of the Heavenly Citadel Peak. It was not impossible to do, but very difficult. I entered Mount Huang again in the guichou year . Wang Yuding and I had the ambition to ascend, but Xu Xiaoze and Wu Guyan frankly discouraged us. I gave up in fear of danger. Now I wonder when I will be able to realize this old wish. Min noted in addition.
Leaves I & II (14 columns in standard script, dated 1681):
In the summer, the fifth lunar month, of the xinyou year  my young friend Chuzhen returned from the West River [Xi Jiang, in modern Guangxi and Guangdong provinces] and asked me to paint two albums that he brought, one for Min Yi An and the other for his own enjoyment. The sweltering heat of the time made it difficult for me to make paintings. When autumn rain came and cooled the air, I painted the scenic sites along the West River for Yi An. Then I painted these intimate sceneries of Mount Huang for Chuzhen, and appended my writings from the journeys to complement the paintings. I have traveled very little in my life. Except for Gusu [Suzhou] and Baimen [Nanjing], I haven’t been anywhere north of the Yangzi River. Since the dynastic change [in 1644], I have become even less active and haven’t ventured beyond forty li from home. The only exceptions are my two trips to Mount Huang in the gengxu  and the guichou  years. I searched almost all the sites there, as any native of Shexian [in Anhui, near Mount Huang] should. Since Chuzhen has never been to Mount Huang, I painted its scenery to spur his interest. But he had traveled to the West River and enjoyed its landscape day by day, so there is no need of my painting, which can appropriately go to Yi An. In the future after all his children get married, if Chuzhen ever travels there, I hope he will take this album with him to check against the actual sites. I will then become his tour guide. According to ancient documents, the high mountains and expansive rivers where ceremonial offerings to Heaven were held include, in addition to the four holy mountains, those at the corners of the land. Mount Huang towers above the southeast region at a corner in relation to Mount Tai [in Shandong] and Mount Heng [in Hunan]. One can ascend its front side from Taiping. To enter it through the Yang Creek from my hometown Shexian, one can see beautiful cliffs and valleys, though it is actually the back of the mountain. I once discussed with Jienan, Yeren, and Wuyuan about the meaning of the character wu, and also touched upon that of the character du. The characters wu and yi are the same but written in reverse forms. The meaning of du are derived from that of xiang. See here the wu and du characters written in the current and the archaic seal script respectively. As to the towns of Gusu and Changwu in our time, Changwu on the east side still observes the ancient systems. How can I get some likeminded friends to explore this in detail? I just jotted down my thoughts at the end of this album for my young friend. Min
Lin Xiongguang 林熊光 (1897–1971) Langan miwan 朗庵秘玩 (Leaf A) Baosong Shi kaocang ji 寳宋室攷藏記 (Leaf II) Lei Zhai 磥齋 (Leaf J) Lei Zhai 磥齋 (Leaf JJ)
 All translations by Shi-yee Liu.  Ji Kang and Liu Ling are two of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, a legendary group of scholars, officials, and eccentrics active in the third century known collectively for their unconventional behavior and philosophy of life.  This line comes from the poem “Yunhan雲漢” in the Da ya大雅 section of the Classic of Poetry. Translated by Berhard Karlgren in Karlgren, The Book of Odes: Chinese Text, Transcription and Translation, Stockholm: The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1950, p. 224.  This line comes from the poem “Song gao嵩高” in the Da ya大雅 section of the Classic of Poetry. Translated by Berhard Karlgren, ibid., p. 226.  This line comes from the poem “Jie Nanshan節南山” in the Xiao ya小雅 section of the Classic of Poetry. Translated by Berhard Karlgren, ibid., p. 133.  This line comes from the poem “Xia Wu下武” in the Da ya大雅 section of the Classic of Poetry. Translated by Berhard Karlgren, ibid., p. 197.  This line comes from the poem “Tianbao天保” in the Xiao ya小雅 section of the Classic of Poetry. Translated by Berhard Karlgren, ibid., pp. 109-110. Modified.  This line comes from the poem “Yin Wu殷武” in the Shang song商頌 section of the Classic of Poetry. Translated by Berhard Karlgren, ibid., p. 266.  This line comes from the poem “Caochong草蟲” in the Guofeng, Zhaonan國風·召南section of the Classic of Poetry. Translated by Berhard Karlgren, ibid., p. 9. Modified.  This line comes from the poem “Gong Liu公劉” in the Da ya大雅 section of the Classic of Poetry. Translated by Berhard Karlgren, ibid., p. 207.
Lin Xiongguang Taiwanese, and his descendants, Banqiao, Taiwan (until 1985; sale, Sotheby's, New York, June 3, 1985, lot 44; to private collection, Canada); private collection , Canada (1985–2012; sale, Sotheby's, New York, March 22, 2012, lot 752; sold to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of the Chinese Album," September 6, 2014–March 29, 2015.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Show and Tell: Stories in Chinese Painting," October 29, 2016–August 6, 2017.
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