An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Dongtu xuanlan 東圖玄覽

May 3, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Dongtu xuanlan 東圖玄覽 "Master Dongtu's profound overview", also called Dongtu xuanlan bian 東圖玄覽編, Zhan Dongtu xuanlan bian 詹東圖玄覽編 or Xuanlanbian 玄覽編, is a book on calligraphy and painting written during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Zhan Jingfeng 詹景鳳 (1532-1602), courtesy name Dongtu 東圖, style Baiyue Shanren 白岳山人, from Xiuning 休寧, Anhui. He served in the General Service of the Ministry of Personnel (libu siwu 吏部司務) and excelled in the painting of bamboos, "slender" grass-script calligraphy, and landscape painting. His art was inspired by the styles of Ni Zan 倪瓚 (1301-1374), Huang Gongwang 黃公望 (1269-1354), and the calligraphers Wang Xizhi 王羲之 (303-361) and Wang Xianzhi 王獻之 (344-386). Zhan also wrote supplements to older books on art, namely Huayuan buyi 畫苑補益, and Shuyuan buyi 書苑補益, as well as a kind of critique, Zhanshi xiaobian 詹氏小辨.

The Dongtu xuanlan was originally an appendix to Zhan's collected writings Dongtu quanji 東圖全集, a book with a length of 30 juan finished in 1591. The last four fascicles, titled Xuanlanbian, were published separately in 1947 by the Palace Museum (Gugong Bowuyuan 故宮博物院), with the title Dongtu xuanlan. The four fascicles can be divided into two parts, the first of which presents, in 600-odd small chapters, evaluations of calligraphic works and paintings. The second, much smaller part, quotes 38 notes on artworks (ti-ba 題跋). For each artwork, Zhan discusses its origin, the artistic styles and strengths, the notes added on the artworks, their history, and also market prices, and occasionally debates the authenticity of individual artworks. A very interesting aspects is the attribution of certain artistic aspects and styles to "schools" ("Jiangsu School" Wupai 吳派, "Zhejiang School" Zhepai 浙派), each of which used rules of their own in the creation of artworks. It can be said that Zhan's critique of individual artists and their works is relatively fair and objective, which is not usually the case in traditional Chinese books on art.

Part of the text is found as a quotation in the art encyclopaedia Peiwenzhai shuhua pu 佩文齋書畫譜, and another selection in the journal Gugong zhoukan 故宮周刊, section Huishi zalu 繪事雜錄.

Xue Yongnian 薛永年 (1992). "Dongtu xuanlan 東圖玄覽", 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, 183.
Li Weikun 李維琨 (1996). "Dongtu xuanlan bian 東圖玄覽編", 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), 763.