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Masterworks of Chinese Painting:
  In Pursuit of Mists and Clouds
Cahill家族收藏展 1
An Exhibition 2 from the Berkeley Art Museum
At Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, MA, 10 September to 4 December 2005
Performance by John Thompson on Sunday, 6 November 2005, 2 PM

Traditional Chinese painting was created by the Chinese literati. The chosen musical instrument of the literati was the qin (now called guqin, "old qin") silk string zither. The melodies, written down since at least the 7th century CE, thus share many themes with Chinese painting. This program consists of music connected to paintings in the current exhibition.3 In the process this should evoke something of the atmosphere of an "elegant gathering" of literati.

Relevant images include the following.

  1. Ch'en Ch'üan (Chen Quan), active 17th century Scholars Gazing at the Moon and Reflections of it in the Water
  2. Ch'en Hung-shou (Chen Hongshou), 1598-1652 Autumn Trees by the River
  3. Ch'en Hung-shou (Chen Hongshou), 1598-1652 Su Wu and Li Ling, with Attendants (Farewell of Su Wu and Li Ling)
  4. Ch'en Kuan (Chen Kuan), active 1610-1640 Landscape with Cranes
  5. Chang Chi-su (Zhang Jisu), active 1660-1670s The Wang-ch'uan Villa, after Wang Wei (699-759)
  6. Chang Lu (Zhang Lu), attributed, 1464-1538 Su Tung-P'o Returning to the Hanlin Academy
  7. Li Fang-ying, 1695-1755 Blossoming Plum
  8. Ma Wan, attributed, active 1325-1365 River Landscape
  9. Ma Yüan (Ma Yuan), active 1190-1230 Plum Tree and Ducks by a Stream
  10. Shen Shih (Shen Shi), active mid 16th century Sunset in an Autumn Valley: Landscape with Man in House
  11. Wang Chi-ch'ien (Wang Jiqian, C. C. Wang), b. 1907 (image not yet found)
  12. Wang Hui, 1632-1717 and Yun Shou-p'ing (Yun Shouping), 1633-1690 River Landscape with Fisherman in Boat
  13. Wen Chia (Wen Jia), 1501-1583 Buildings on Immortal Mountains (at bottom is a boy carrying a wrapped qin)

Relevant guqin melodies include:

  1. Han Credentials
    Su Wu avoids serving the Xiongnu in Central Asia, then returns home
  2. Li Ling Thinks of Han
    After serving the Xiongnu, Li Ling cannot return home
  3. Three Repetitions of "Plum Blossom"
    One of the most popular of all qin melodies
  4. Moon Atop a Plum Tree
    Lin Bu on an island in Hangzhou's West Lake
  5. Living in the Mountains
    The typical aim of a Daoist
  6. Song of the Woodcutter
    Retiring to the mountains to avoid serving the Yuan dynasty
  7. Thrice Departing for Yangguan (qin song)
    Wang Wei sees off a friend going from west from a courier station near Chang'an
  8. Jade Sheng Heavenly Crane
    Finding immortality on a mountain top, then riding off on a crane
  9. Song of the Fisherman (standard tuning)
    The sort of fisherman one sees on river boats in Chinese painting
  10. Old Toper's Chant (qin song)
    Lyrics by Su Dongpo in honor of his friend Ouyang Xiu

Footnotes (Shorthand references are explained on a separate page)

1. Cahill家族收藏展
The Chinese title of the exhibit means "Exhibition from the Cahill Family Collection. James Cahill is Professor Emeritus, History of Art at University of California Berkeley (website). His book The Painter's Practice. How Artists Lived and Worked in Traditional China (1994; see in bibliography) addresses the issue of how painters who embraced (or at least paid homage to) the amateur ideals of the literati and yet wished to devote their lives to their art actually survived. By analogy this should be of interest to people who wonder the same about guqin players who devoted their own lives to their art.

2. The exhibition
The exhibition was guest curated by Julia White, then at the Honolulu Academy of Arts.

3. The paintings
They should all still be on line at the Berkeley Art Museum website. (Return)

Return to my performances or to the Guqin ToC.