Lotus Sutra, 1420, Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Woodblock print on paper. Museum Purchase © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Lotus Sutra, 18th century, Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Ink on paper. Museum Purchase © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
The Lotus Sutra proclaims itself to be the Buddha’s ultimate teaching. First compiled at the end of the second century, the Lotus Sutra, has been printed and hand copied innumerable times. In these two examples, the brush’s movement and modulation is as apparent in the earlier Imperial printed copy (top) as it is in the manuscript, despite the fact that a brush was not employed in the creation of the woodblock printed version.
Temple Bell, 13th year of the reign of the Shunzhi emperor, 1657, Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Bronze. Given in memory of Edward Cunningham by his descendants, 1968. E78689 © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
“Hundred Boys” Jar, 1522-1566, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Jiajing period. Porcelain with underglaze blue decoration. Gift of Mrs. Herbert Nadai and Thomas Beal Jr. in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas P. Beal, 1982. E81696 © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
The theme of one hundred boys at play was a popular decorative motif on porcelain, textiles and paintings from the 12th to the 20th century. Conveying a wish for numerous male progeny, the roots of the hundred boys motif is traceable to China’s earliest literary compilation, the Book of Odes, and alludes to the story of King Wen who had ninety-nine male offspring (with 24 wives) and one adopted son. One of his sons, King Wu, founded the Zhou dynasty (1027-221 B.C.E.).
Shi Jianmen. Chair, Stainless steel, 2005. © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
"This chair's graceful vertical line recalls a flowing line of calligraphy."
Table, Shi Jianmin (b. 1962), China, 2005, stainless steel © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
The Grand Water Terrace, Front Facade, Dashuifa Zhengmian, Yi Lantai (Chinese, fl. 1780s), copperplate print on paper © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Yuan Jie (Dates unknown, 16th century), Landscape after Ni Zan (1301-1374), 1554, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Ink on paper. Mark and Dolores Pratt Collection. © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Lan Ying (1578- active beyond 1660), Landscape after Ni Zan (1301-1374), 1647, Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Ink on paper. Mark and Dolores Pratt Collection. © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Both of these landscapes strongly allude to the style of the Yuan dynasty artist Ni Zan. Dry, sparsely applied ink, the ‘one-river, two banks’ composition, the solitary hut in the foreground, were all characteristics of the earlier master, that later artists sought to creatively reinterpret. Although the stylistic references are unmistakable, the individual methods of the respective artists are also apparent when you look at the details of each painting.
Wang Chen (1720-1797), Album of ten leaves depicting bamboo, Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Ink on paper, Mark and Dolores Pratt Collection © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Painting ink renditions of bamboo was a subtle way in which an educated gentleman could demonstrate his calligraphic prowess, and thus his cultural refinement. By using the same media--brush, ink and paper--and the same technique as calligraphy, the painting is meant to be appreciated as much for its fluent brushwork than its resemblance to the plant.
Bamboo also embodies the virtues of the ideal Confucian gentleman. Evergreen, it symbolized perseverance under harsh conditions. Supple, it is able to bend in the wind without breaking. Hollow, it represented modesty.
Guan Dongqi, 19th century, Ink Prunus in the Style of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) Artists, Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Ink on paper, E303544 © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
By rejecting chromatic color and unnecessary detail, Guan Dongqi focuses the viewers’ attention on the brush’s assertive, vigorous movement and versatility. With quickly executed strokes, the angular branches contrast with delicately wavering stems.
Ink paintings of the prunus were subtle ways for scholar-artists to demonstrate calligraphic prowess, and thus erudition and cultural knowledge. The link with calligraphy is further enforced with the two inscriptions enmeshed in the composition. Ink prunus has been a genre in Chinese painting since a Buddhist monk traced the moonlit shadow of a tree on his window paper in the early 12th century.
Tang Hong (b. 1926) and Zhang Daqian (1899-1983), Landscape of Huangshan, China, 1960, ink & color on paper © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Imperial Woman's Court Robe, China, first half of 1700s, silk, gold-wrapped thread © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Second Degree Daoist Priest’s Robe, late 18th century, Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Silk, satin, gold wrapped thread, 49 ¼ x 71 ¾ inches. Museum purchase, 2003, E302178 © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
The back of this robe is embellished with a panoramic portrayal of the entire universe. On the right and left shoulder are the sun and the moon, the gold discs represent stars, and the hem is decorated with dragons and waves, representing the seas. Wearing this image of the cosmic order, the priest’s body becomes a mirror that reflects the universe and allows him to communicate with the celestial world.
Woman's Wedding Tunic and Vest, China, late 19th century, silk, gold metallic thread © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Textile Folding Screen, China, 18th-19th century, silk, embroidered silk, cotton © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Panel with Antique Motifs, Qing dynasty (1644-1911).Embroidered silk. Museum purchase, 2005, E302681 © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
This panel imitates ink rubbings of ancient roof tiles, complemented by a descriptive calligraphic inscription. In addition to serving as a testament to the persistence of antiquarian themes in Chinese art, the panel demonstrates the aesthetic of the brush, although the brush is absent. In embroidering the image, the artist has retained the modulation, movement and form of brush written characters, despite the fact that they were created with a needle and thread.
Rubbings of terminal roof tiles were collected in books and appreciated for their aesthetic value by Chinese epigraphers in the 18th and 19th century.
Embroidered Banner, China, late 19th century, wool, embroidered silk © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
"Five-color" Wucai Jar, China, Wanli period (1573-1619), porcelain © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
Ge ware bowl, 1426-1435, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Xuande period. Porcelain. Gift of Miss Hester Bancroft, 1906, E9054 © 2001-2014 The Peabody Essex Museum.
The crackle pattern as seen on this bowl was first developed by the Ge kiln in the 13th century. By deliberately cracking the glaze during the cooling process, and later highlighting the fissures by staining, the object is artificially endowed with an antique appearance. Whereas this bowl made for the Ming imperial court mimics the earlier falsely-aged pieces, the repair to the lip is a genuine testament to its own six centuries of age.