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Chinese Literature
Huashi 畫史 "A History of Painting"


The Huashi 畫史 "A history of painting" is a book on painting written by the Song period 宋 (960-1279) calligrapher Mi Fu 米芾 (1051-1107), courtesy name Mi Yuanzhang 米元章, style Lumen jushi 鹿門居士, Xiangyang manshi 襄陽漫士 or Haiyue waishi 海岳外史, also known with the name Mi Nangong 米南宮. The short book on painting is therefore also known under the title of Mi Haiyue huashi 米海岳畫史. Mi Fu came from Zhenjiang 鎮江, Jiangsu, where his grandfather had built the Haiyue Studio 海岳庵. About the early life and career of Mi Fu, histories report contradicting matters, but it was clear that he had a talent for poetry and arts. During the Xuanhe reign 宣和 (1119-1125) of Emperor Huizong 宋徽宗 (r. 1100-1125) he was appointed professor for calligraphy and painting (shuhuaxue boshi 書畫學博士) and vice director in the Ministry of Rites (libu yuanwailang 禮部員外郎), later military prefect (zhijun 知軍) of Huainan 淮南. He was very renowned as a calligrapher who mastered the running script (xingshu 行書) and the grass script (caoshu 草書) styles of ancient masters like Wang Xizhi 王羲之. Mi Fu is one of the four great masters of the Song period (Songdai si da jia 宋代四大家), the others being Cai Xiang 蔡襄, Su Shi 蘇軾 and Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅. His teachers in painting were Dong Yuan 董源, and he specialized in depicting withered trees, pines and stones. Mi Fu has also written the books Shushi 書史, a history of callgraphy, the Baozhang daifang lu 寶章待訪錄 and the Haiyue mingyan 海岳名言. Mi Fu was known as a somewhat excentric artist and was often called Mi Dian 米顛 "Topdown Mi".
His book Huashi is a critical history of painting from the Wei to the early Song period. It includes biographies of the most important painters and a qualitative rating of their paintings. The book also explains why and how certain paintings can be rated as forgeries, and provides information about the owners and collectors of the most famous paintings. The method of mounting the pictures on paper rolls is also described. His book is very important for connoisseurs of the history of painting and is a very reliable source because Mi Fu laid importance on the personal inspection of the paintings he described. Interestingly enough, his book also includes descriptions of charts on astronomical clocks (huntian tu 渾天圖), musical notes, pitchpipes and the twelve musical modes. These do actually not belong into the category of "red-green" illustrations (danqing 丹青), i.e. painting, but Mi Fu in this respect imitates Zhang Yanyuan's 張彥遠 book Lidai minghua ji 歷代名畫記, where illustrations on the ecliptic of the sun and the moon are to be found. Mi Fu also adds short theoretical discussions on astronomy and music that are, nonetheless, not quite reliable in the scientific sense.
The Huashi is included in the collectanea Jindai mishu 津逮秘書, Wangshi shuhua yuan 王氏書畫苑, Shuofu 說郛, Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Tang-Song congshu 唐宋叢書, Hubei xianzheng yishu 湖北先正遺書, Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Meishu congshu 美術叢書 and Hualun congkan 畫論叢刊.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1801. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

September 4, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail