The Lingnan School

" fI; # It. iI~ &.– It. -<A1L ~-* /1, ..P– IP'" Ji t-~' "\. :-. N.. r.t/t "~ /i ~~ A ~ ,j, J!.~ ---- j~ ~ ~ SI. --7 ~A. ... , ;s. it {~ ~ ~~ ~ iIli ~~ Fig. 6. End of handscroll. \ middle states quite clearly 'Gan Ju (retired scholar, Gan) [also known as] Qing shan, produced [this paint– ing] at Diannan' (fig. 5). Dian is an alternative name for Yunnan, the southwestern mountainous province, and nan means south; so together they mean South Yunnan, which is undoubtedly the subject of the painting. The colophon itself is dated to the second year of the Daoguang reign (1822) and is signed by the calligrapher Qian Tangju at Yangcheng (another name for Guangzhou or Canton). It is reason– able, therefore, to assume that this painting was painted, even if not compieted, prior to 1814. As such, it is Gans earliest datable work. The fact that the second colophon would predate the first is not signifi– cant. The first colophon on a hand– scroll is an important one, and a humble artist, asked to write first, might leave the blank space for a more important artist to occupy and inscribe his own addition further along. If we judge from the spacing, this seems to be the case here. Apart from the handscroll, we have on record only a very few dated bottles and these were palnted between 1815 and 1823, Gans known working period is therefore between 1814, if we take the latest likely date for the handscroll, and 1823. The handscroll and the dated bonles show that during this ten-year span Gan was ,dully mature artist In the first colophon on the handscroll Qian Tangju refers to Gan Xuanwen as Can ju, a term suggesting that by 1822, the date of the colophon, Gan is already a retired scholar. ju, jushi, or juren, are forms used by those who have retired from the official life of the Confucian scholar or, in a religious sense, from the dusty world of daily affairs. In either case, they do not refer to young men and are more likely to mean mature and, by the standards of the day, elderly scholars. If we assume that the hand that produced this scroll must have been thirty or more years old, then it is unlikely that Gan was born after the early 1780s. If we assume a sixry– year lifespan, he might have died in the 1840s or before. It is more likely, however, that Gan was already beyond his thirties when he pro– duced the handscroll and either had the time and resources for an ex– tended visit to Yunnan or, despite the implications of the form Can jU used in the colophon, was ap– pointed to an official post there. The skill and sophistication of the paint– ing also suggest a fully mature hand. In this case, he could have been born perhaps as early as the 1750s or I760s and have been nearing the end of his expected life-span in the 1820s Gan Xuanwen's works consist mainly of landscapes. Apart from 8 four rather bizarre portraits of Euro– peans, encountered no doubt at the port of Guangzhou where they were permined in cenain concessionary areas, his only other subjects were birds, beasts, and flowers. In this he was entirely consistent with the liter– ati tradition of painting, which con– centrated on landscape-albeit often mental rather than topograph– ical-and on the flora and fauna that filled it. Gans lengthy handscroll affords us a delightful journey not only through the landscape of southern Yunnan but into his mature style. It is a style based upon the landscape painting of the literati tradition with clear references to its late Ming dy– nasty expression, and through that, but more subtly, to earlier modes back to the Yuan dynasty. Ahandscroll is read from right to left, and part of its delight is that it breaks down the distinction be– tween artist and audience-a dis– tinction which hardly existed at a significant level in the mature tradi– tion of China. There, the work of art was merely a catalyst for a journey of exploration that made the artist his own audience in the forming of every brush stroke, as a dancer or musician expands consciousness with every performance, and that made the audience an artist, in its creative response to the work of art. Art in China, as it has become today