The Lingnan School

Fig. 6. Handscroll cominued from page 12. Fig. 8. Crystal bottle. Y. F Yang Collection. GugangJushi. It is dated to the qinghe (fourth month) of 1815. It also gives the place of painting, but unfortunately the second character is illegible in the only photographs I have of this Princeton bottle. How– ever, naming the place suggests a possible reason for the unusual type of bottle. The literati were wont to travel freely in search of artistic in– spiration, often staying for lengthy periods as guests with other mem– bers of the influential minority. Artists were usually welcome wher– ever they went because they were, in the Chinese tradition, prophets of higher consciousness. They were treated, therefore, as gurus and were both revered and welcomed. While staying, they would paint and often give their works to their host. Per– haps this crystal bottle was an old one owned by the host, and Gan was invited to paint inside it for him. Next among his rare dated works, we have two bottles where cyclical dates are combined with reign peri– ods, giving a precise date. The ear– lier of these is dated to the first month of 1816 (fig. 8). It is again in the same late-Ming style of land– scape but is augmented in side panels of the hexagonal crystal bot– tle with an unusual subject of a bird on a bough and a more usual bam– boo and rocks. It is signed Gugang 11 Gan Xuanwen. Although smaller and, therefore, less spectacular than the Princeton bottle, it is equally fine. The hexagonal crystal bottle is a popular format with Gan, and we may assume that he had such bottles and his other popular formats spe– cially made for painting. The inscrip– tion here is in xingshu (draft script). Gan was a fine calligrapher in at least two modes, and although this draft script appears at first to be un– tutored, it is in fact, like so much of literati expression, highly sophisti– cated and very competent. The second bottle from 1816, also precisely dated within the ]iaqing reign, is dated to the autumn of the year (fig. 9). The front has a land– scape scene, with the delightful dis– regard for scale and perspective of so much literati painting. It is much more intimate in nature than the late-Ming style works we have seen so far, with their recession into space depicted by various elements separated from each other by bands of water and mist. Here the seated sage, meditating on a ledge, is en– gulfed in a towering landscape which refers more directly, although not exclusively, to Yuan style. As a highly educated literatus, Gan would have been familiar with the various styles of his tradition and would have used them to powerful ends for the knowing audience. On the re-