Chinese Literati Art
Week 5. Tranquil and Charming Landscape: Mi Family Style
I. Placidity and the Idea of Antiquity
1. In Sung literature and art, p’ing‐tan/pingdan 平淡 (placid and plain) indicates an aesthetic inclination that moves away from external flourishing, such as flowery diction and formal perfection, and emphasizes on the rich substance concealed under the surface. Thus a work of p’ing‐tan/pingdan style demands intense attention and repeated viewing from its audience. 2. The concept of p’ing‐tan/pingdan is originated in the Taoist classics by Lao‐tzu/Laozi (c. mid 4th c. BCE) and Chuang‐tzu/Zhuangzi (c. late 4th BCE). In these texts, Tao/Dao is described as a grant void that is calm, bland, silent, inactive and impartial towards anything. It thus invites harmony and balance. In the Confucian interpretation of the concept, a true gentleman, who possesses the Tao, is also p’ing‐tan/pingdan in his disposition and general views of the world.
3. The conception of p’ing‐tan/pingdan exhibits an aesthetic parallel with the conception of ku‐i/guyi 古意 (the idea of antiquity,) which also values the internal over the external, simplicity over articulation, naturalness over artificiality.
4. A stylistic correspondence of Mi Fu's (1052–1107) newly adopted aesthetic position (ie. p’ing‐tan/pingdan) during his years of de facto exile to Lien‐shui/Lianshui (1097–99) is found in his On Calligraphy and the Nine Works of Cursive Calligraphy. The style is calm and restrained, subtle and non‐dramatic, balanced and centered, harmonized and grounded. II. Charm and Ink Play
1. In the tradition of Chinese art, ch’ü/qu 趣 is often used in painting to denote the layers of flavors outside of pictorial representation. As oppose to i/yi 意, ideas, ch’ü/qu resides in nature waiting to be captured by the artist and can be interpreted in the form of a work of art. I/yi, on the other hand, is formulated within the artist, and can be expressed through a work of art.
2. The concepts of hsie‐ch’ü/xiequ 寫趣, to sketch its charm or hsie‐i/xieyi 寫意, to sketch the idea, are often applied to landscape painting in Chinese literati art. The former has more to do with the…