An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Huashuo 畫說

Apr 12, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

There are several books with the title Huashuo 畫說 "Explanations to painting", the most important of which was written by Mo Shilong 莫是龍 (1539-1587), courtesy name Yunqing 雲卿 or Tinghan 廷韓, style Qiushui 秋水 or Houming 後明, from Huating 華亭 (close to Songjiang 松江, Shanghai).

Huashuo 畫說 by Mo Shilong 莫是龍 and Dong Qichang 董其昌

The book of Mo Shilong is also attributed to his friend Dong Qichang 董其昌 (1555-1636), as phrases of the text are quoted in Dong's books Huachanshi suibi 畫禪室隨筆, Huazhi 畫旨 and Huayan 畫眼. The problem seems to have emerged from the title of the book which was perhaps not the original title. Mo's name as that of the author is found in the series Baoyantang miji 寶顏堂秘笈, Wenqing xiaopin 聞情小品 and Xu shuofu 續說郛, and the descriptive part of books described but whose text is not included (Cunmu 存目) in the Siku quanshu 四庫全書. The brief text of 16 paragraphs was written around 1598. It discusses the lineages of southern (represented by Wang Wei 王維, 692-761) and northern (represented by Li Sixun 李思訓, 651-718) painting schools and stresses the usefulness of literary studies for the creation of artworks. The author affirms the practice of imitating ancient masters to feel their inspiration, and warns to take too many different schools and examples as models.

The text of Mo/Dong is also included in the series Guang baichuan xuehai 廣百川學海, Xianqing xiaopin 閑情小品, Congshu jicheng chubian 叢書集成初編, Hualun congkan 畫論叢刊 and Zhongguo shuhua quanshu 中國書畫全書.

Hua Yilun's 華翼綸 Huashuo 畫說

Another book titled Huashuo 畫說 was written by Hua Yilun 華翼綸 (juren degree 1844), courtesy name Diqiu 荻秋, around 1850. It consists of 26 paragraphs discussing various schools of painters, techniques of critique and conoisseurship, the choice of paper and ink, painting techniques, and else. Hua held that an excellent painter did neither aspire fame nor fortune, but desired only to express his own spiritual intentions (gu xing ji yi 孤行己意) and to transform his mind through his hand (bianhua zai xin, zaohua zai shou 變化在心,造化在手). No good paintings would arise out of a bad mood or if an artist tried to force himself. Hua Yilun, too, followed the belief that the imitation of ancient masters was the first step of a beginner.

Francesco Sambiasi's Huashuo 畫說

A third book with the title was written by the Italian Jesuit Franceso Sambiasi (Chinese name Bi Fangji 畢方濟, 1582-1649), who also wrote the Chinese books Lingyan lishao 靈言蠡勺 and Shuihua erda 睡畫二答. His Huashuo mainly deals with details of portraits and gives advice concerning parts of face and body.

Gao Bing's 高秉 Zhitou huashuo 指頭畫說

The book Zhitou huashuo 指頭畫說 was written by Gao Bing 高秉 (fl. 1750), courtesy name Qingchou 青疇, around 1750. Gao Bing was a grandnephew of Gao Qipei 高其佩 (1160-1734), an eccentric artist who created paintings with his fingertips and fingernails. The book discusses Gao Qipei's techniques, but also remarks his the use of paper, seals and inscriptions, and contains anecdotal stories about Gao's finger painting.

Du Zhuan 杜巽 (1997). "Lun Gao Qipei zhihua yishu: Jian lun Gao Bing Zhitou huashuo 論高其佩指畫藝術──兼論高秉《指頭畫說》", Hangzhou Shifan Xueyuan xuebao 杭州師範學院學報, 1997 (4): 61-65.
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, 1813.
Qi Tinggui 戚廷貴, Liu Xiaoyan 劉孝嚴, Tang Shufan 唐樹凡, eds. (1992). Dong-Xifang yishu cidian 東西方藝術辭典 (Changchun: Jilin jiaoyu chubanshe), 717.
Shao Qi 邵琦 (1996). "Huashuo 畫說", 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), 741.
Tao Mingjun 陶明君, ed. (1993). Zhongguo hualun cidian 中國畫論辭典 (Changsha: Hunan chubanshe), 298, 311, 320.
Wang Lichun 王力春 (2021). "Zhitou huashuo yu Gao Qipei zhihua lilun kaolüe 《指頭畫說》與高其佩指畫理論考略", Meishu daguan 美術大觀, 2021 (3): 74-75.
Xue Yongnian 薛永年 (1992). "Huashuo 畫說", 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, 323.