An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Deyuzhai huapin 德隅齋畫品

Mar 8, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Deyuzhai huapin 德隅齋畫品 "Rating of paintings of the Studio of Virtue Corner" is a book on painting written during the Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126) by Li Zhi 李廌 (fl. 1098), courtesy name Fangshu 方叔,from Yangdi 陽翟 (modern Yuxian 禹縣, Henan) or Huazhou 華州 (Huaxian 華縣, Shaanxi). He was a great admirer of Su Shi 蘇軾 (1037-1101) and is known as one of the six master disciples of Su Shi (Sumen liu junzi 蘇門六君子 or Sumen liu xueshi 蘇門六學士, the others being Qin Guan 秦觀, Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅, Chao Fuzhi 晁補之, Zhang Lei 張耒, and Chen Shidao 陳師道). Yet Li never occupied a state office.

The brief book discusses 21 paintings from the Tang 唐 (618-907) to the early Northern Song period. They were in the possession of Zhao Lingzhi 趙令畤 (1064-1134), at the time magistrate of Xiangyang 襄陽 (today in Hubei). The paintings are arranged according to genres, namely first, Buddhist images; second, portraits of Daoist masters; third, portraits of ordinary persons; fourth, images of flowers, birds and other animals. Each painting is discussed as to the image, and also concerning its artistic qualities. The book has interesting aspects not just from the viewpoint of art history, but also because the text is written in elegant and refined words. A factual error can be found in the description of the painting Hangui pubei tu 寒龜曝背圖 "A cold-stiff tortoise warms its back in the sun" which refers to a Counsellor-in-chief who did not exist.

Because all paintings described are long lost, Li's book is an important contribution to the history of art collection. Unlike many other books on paintings, Li did not attempt to classify or rank the paintings according to their quality. The descriptions of Li provide a concise, but clear description of the aspect of individual paintings, like Xu Xi's 徐熙 (886-975) "Crane and bamboo" (Hezhu tu 鶴竹圖), but also about the genres certain painters used to be famous for, like the birds, tortoises and dragons of Huang Sheng 黃筌 (903-965) with their fresh, but tender colours. Li also criticized some "ridiculous" paintings and warns future artists to imitate such depicting like "An old couple nipping sour wine" (Weng'ao chang cu tu 翁媼嘗醋圖), "A hundred ghosts playing" (Gui bai xi tu 鬼百戲圖), or "The Jade Emperor holding court" (Yuhuang chaohui tu 玉皇朝會圖). The image "The Polestar holding court" (Ziwei chaohui tu 紫微朝會圖), painted with thin ink and a course brush showed the tendency of Buddhist and Daoist writings of the time to adapt vulgar tendencies, even if religious paintings became popular among scholar-officials.

The text is relatively rare, but found in the series Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈, Wangshi shuhua yuan 王氏書畫苑, Shuofu 說郛, Baichuan xuehai 百川學海 and Siku quanshu 四庫全書.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1801.
Pu Songnian 薄松年 (1992). "Deyuzhai huapin 德隅齋畫品", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Meishu 美術 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 168.
Sun Xiaoli 孫小力 (1996). "Deyuzhai huapin 德隅齋畫品", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Yishu 藝術卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 641.