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Maker(s):Yao Zhengyong
Culture:Chinese (1811 - d. after 1883)
Title:Fan: Solitary Monastery in Mountains
Date Made:ca. 1860
Materials:ink and color on silk
Place Made:China
Measurements:sheet: 13 3/8 in x 16 1/4 in x 33.9725 cm; 34 cm x 41.3 cm x 13 3/8 in; image: 9 7/8 in x 9 13/16 in; 25.1 cm x 24.9 cm
Accession Number:  SC 1947.12.3
Credit Line:Gift of William S. T. Chang
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

elaborate landscape with mountains and gnarly trees, water in the distance and a small clutch of buildings forming the monastery

Label Text:
Scholar, collector, and artist Yao Zhengyong lived as a wealthy gentleman in Taizhou prefecture near Shanghai and once served as a high provincial official of Jiangsu province. In the early 1860s, Yao hosted gatherings of literati and associated with a group of officials and scholars when they fled to Taizhou to evade the Taiping Rebellion, a widespread political and religious upheaval in southern China.

This elaborate, round fan painting, executed in an archaistic blue-and-green style, portrays a mountain landscape with carefully orchestrated hills, trees, and ravines where a solitary monastery is hidden. The depiction of this mountain refuge possibly represents the hope of scholars and officials for a peaceful, reclusive life and a longing for the beauty of nature at a chaotic moment in time.

Yao explained in his inscription that this fan painting was created as a gift to Ma Shiqiao (d. 1864), a respected Nanjing painter (known as the Elder Shiqiao). Its style is after the Ming artist Lu Zhi (1496–1576), a native of Wuxian, Jiangsu, whose sobriquet was Baoshanzi. A disciple of the famous Wu-school literati artist Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), Lu is renowned for his landscape paintings featuring elaborate brushwork and energetic expression. Yao’s delicate brushwork demonstrates his skill in evoking the old masters, but this work also exemplifies the lofty ideas and elegant taste embodied in fan paintings, which were often used as reciprocal gifts among late Qing scholars.

In 1947, William S. T. Chang donated a group of fan paintings and calligraphic scrolls from a former Taizhou collection to SCMA. Another fan of about the same date from this collection (SC 1947:12-7), which includes calligraphic inscriptions by two scholar-officials (Qian Guisen in 1860, and Xu Shenxi in 1863) was also given to the same recipient—the Elder Shiqiao. These works provide a rare glimpse into the literati associations and artistic productions of scholar-officials and local gentry in nineteenth-century Jiangnan, the region in the southern reaches of the Yangtze River where most of China’s wealth and talent was centered.


landscapes; vegetation; water; architecture; religion

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