The Lingnan School

Fig. 1. Gan Xuanwens entry in the Guangdong l-Iuaren tu. ;.roe '""""YC(!' ~ H ....... AI~ I ~ (rH i~a;«J1 ~i>d"-,,- 1It'1 'f'£ called zi. They are limited in num– ber. Once established, particularly as an artist in any sense of the word, a number of further names might be adopted. These are all called haD and are potentially unlimited in number. Hao might include studio names adopted as personal names and names suggesting character or affiliations to religious, philosophi– cal, or life-style ideas-suggesting, for instance, that the artist is a Daoist or a Buddhist or has adopted the persona, even if not the physical abode, of a hermit. Even ownership of particular precious works of art might be reflected in these hao. One of my own names, in my per– sona as a very minor Chinese painter, was given to me by friends and describes me as 'the old man who carries the staff.' It refers to a rare, antique scholar's walking staff in my collection-the 'old man' in Chinese, of course, being deeply re– spectful and bearing no relation to my actual, rather youthful span of years! A brief look through any bio– graphical dictionary reveals few artists without at least four or five al– ternative names and many with a dozen or more. Wang Zhen, a painter of the early Qing dynasty, for instance, had at least eighteen names by which he was known at various stages of his life, and this was by no means unusual. The esoteric nature of the in-group that made up the in– fluential minority delighted in the complex social rules underlying the proper use of all these different names and in testing itself by refer– ring to artists in their conversations and writings by often obscure as– sumed names known only to fellow connoisseurs. It was one of the many self-protecting esoteric devices of the literati. Gan Xuanwen signed his works with any of a number of combina– tions of his family and given name (see figure 2): Gan Xuanwen (A); Gan Xuan (B); Xuanwen (C); or sim– ply Xuan (D). There is a further complication in the fact that the character wen, which means 'litera– ture' or 'literary' but can also mean by association 'refined' or 'elegant,' is sometimes used after a name to indicate that the person wrote what 'llilllilt, fdlil-lt, .m 111.,., JII!*lIdJkJll.:i::~ f<. itIU:~Z~. fl'itM nlllllllf, II!fJla ,101111 :H;~Ii, IHA'l'n,,,, It - iI.. l'i1!alllllili, h'::~, .. "IIII!:I q!;t:: lit, I!l<l' "I'll.' Ill! .'mlOil'l"fil ~9', tit 6t~ fit. lI1!.ltIHll; JUl. ~ If '''41ll{f!t ~X' • litUiIlll eeti'm ilG f,W) l..i:1 ".i!BiIll 11I0 .., , e.">lt lllf It ktlt. , J,II!li!IIUUi. H "I .t~!lcAdl.ZlIHl j@. Jt-jU!)t.lllllt. if 1IJ1l, I.W,;". '''' ~t J.._l",.. :t .~. ... (I fill. " pI Gan Xuanwen left sufficient works for us to be sure of certain facts about him: his family name and other assumed names by which he signed his works; his place of origin; and a working period during which he occasionally dated his Output. We will begin with what we knOw. His family name was Gan (see fig– ure 2: first character of column A; names are all wrinen from top to bonorn) and his personal name, Xuanwen (fig. 2: second and third characters of A). As we are drawn into the esoteric nature of Chinese aesthetics by our interest in snuff bottles, we will frequently encounter a multiplicity of names for an indi– vidual so briefly examining the background is useful. Among the literati the system of names was hierarchical. At birth the family name of a child was aug– mented by a given name used by the parents. When the child went to school, a second given name was as– signed so that the childs peers at school would not be guilty of the disrespect, within the Confucian sys– tem, of using the same form of ad– dress as their more worthy elders. At maturity, or when marrying, a third given name would be adopted for the use of ones now older peer group and wife. All of these are Part I: Gan Xuanwen ill •• I<l;J hl'l!.II-j If. ( t .. .{;) <e, .".I-=lf. ( -(\ OL:)-$~ or-liLt, ']1'l Ill_ U"ffi ( 1" ':liri":f) A... ltJl:ll: (";1 'r:I,llh. )(*1tl'1. Jr :':;I;I'IA. IJISJli"'ltfUI i;m:. 1J''fjlUs"(kl'f (Ih 4< 11>. ~l'", !'itlll' AlA. Ha =,.. 'J' v "u". ICl. ~tti.t a-.f.llPl"I.-i.:.~. iIliJi!<illfjlllt, {;!\\'l'j<III, j Ij;~(fll, ll2/'lill<'ilil1< 1'J('jjtlllt, ItlhHrM I u. If. ""A•• <. "Ill X:ll:IlHl, 'Ui?lil!'~:ll:" ~1l:t!lI1l. " .1JiJ;, gi~~A :++, Ijl',~", H;j,~ $I1ll, IItn'! H'~ ri It l< Ib, IUJUlitH!, ifij'l .lBJJ;Jj81~.IJd:'l:mM'. ~ §:i!". IlIJlilE4<~, JIl'l! llfJ,. l\)1\*IIlA~ r:HOl *ltillfrll!lIi T f'''''l"!-– 'F (. ct" ) trJ (lIlilE fllJ.lil·.q:.( -Ul!i.) IJ'J <"lE'" ill Ill. (Ji!T 111l. <r~:ll: Ill. fl • ill4jjljltlXoll#Jl!uliJ,. :j;m) • llIJ<:ll:itffl!!lIitrJ <lIIlill!» ; <1Etolll) • strength of one painting, however fine. And if the snuff bonle had re– mained in the convenient but unrea– sonable slot into which scholars have placed it until recently-an in– significant art form not worthy of se– rious attention-obscurity would have remained the fate of Gan Xuan– wen. But Gan painted an apparently large number of snuff bottles, of which many have survived in collec– tions around the world. If we take the snuff bottle into account as a perfectly sensible, alternative format to the hanging and handscroll, the album and fari-as the Chinese themselves obviously did-then we have-in Gan a notable artist with a considerable output, and the poten– tial for the development of a reputa– tion to match his artistic ability. The same is, of course, equally true of Ding Erzhong. Although his recorded works other than bottles include a minor painting or two and some carved seals, he also would have been doomed to obscurity without his snuff bottle output. How charming! The snuff bonle gallops to the rescue of a gallant little band of minor literati besieged by the in– difference of art history. 5