Master of the Lotus Garden

The Life and Art of Bada Shanren (1626-1705)

Wang Fangyu and Richard Barnhart; Edited by Judith E. Smith

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Bada Shanren created one of the most compelling and distinctive bodies of graphic art in he history of Chinese culture.  A prince of the Ming imperial family, he became a monk after the Manchu invasion of China led to the collapse of the Ming dynasty.  Thirty years later, when the turmoil of the conquest had passed, he returned to secular life as a painter, poet, and calligrapher.  Although portrayed by his contemporaries as a mad eccentric, his art reveals a rational genius, and evidence suggests that he feigned madness to conceal his inner emotions.  Despite his character, he has had a profound influence on later generations of Chinese artists, especially those of the twentieth century.
This beautiful book—one of the few works in the field of Chinese painting that focuses on a single artist—is the only comprehensive analysis of the life and art of Bada Shanren ever written.  Wang Fangyu and Richard M. Barnhart give a historical overview of the period in which Bada Shanren lived, discuss his importance in Chinese art history as he consummate scholar-artist, and provide a comprehensive biography that discusses his genealogy, education, activities, friends, and developments as an artist.
More than four hundred of Bada Shranren's works are reproduced in this book, and as many as seventy representative paintings and works of calligraphy are accompanied by interpretive essays.  There are also translations of poems and inscriptions, most of which have not been previously published.

"A 300-page handsomely illustrated book on the art of Bada Shanren. A large-paged, strongly bound volume, it is unique in being the first comprehensive analysis of the seventeenth century Buddhist monk, a descendant of the Ming imperial family, who made a most compelling, distinctive, and enigmatic contribution to Chinese graphic art. . . . Mr. Wang is also an authority on Bada's poetry, translations of which are included, mostly published for the first time. Professor Barnhart presents an image of the artist's emotions, hopes, memories, and thoughts revealed through his art. He elucidates Bada's stylistic features and analyzes eloquently his calligraphy and paintings, which greatly influenced later Chinese artists, especially those of this century."—Byron Ireland, Day by Day

"A vivid picture of a melon staring at a moon (yes!) represents the artist lamenting the loss of his family and his country and alludes to even more in the mind of one of China's most compelling yet elusive poet-painters. This penetrating and convincing reading of but a single painting among the 72 catalogued here (all amply illustrated, with supplemental figures) characterizes this densely comprehensive study. One extended essay by the expert on the artist (Wang) details this 'eccentric' artist's career, and another by a leading art historian (Barnhart) gives a close reading of the works. . . . There are still far too few studies of a single Chinese artist; surely this sets the standard for such studies henceforth . . . and any library with even modest ambitions should have it."—Choice

"Wang Fangyu . . . has furnished the results of a lifetime of research on Bada, painstakingly deciphering signatures and dates written according to long obsolete conventions. The difficult circumstances of Bada's life, his Buddhist and classical learning, and the recondite nature of his art, mean that many questions still remain to be resolved, but we can be grateful for the achievements so far."—Roderick Whitfield, Burlington Magazine

"Bada Shanren . . . was a calligrapher, painter and poet whose life coincided with a traumatic period of change in China. . . . It is this brilliant, innovative, disturbing and inspiring art that is the main subject of this book. Published to accompany an exhibition of Bada's paintings which took place in two venues (San Francisco and Yale) in the autumn of 1990 and the spring of 1991, the book illustrates 130 works. They range from earlier studies of birds, animals and plants, through to the majestic landscapes done in the last ten years of Bada's life. . . . This book is well produced, with excellent and informative text."—Rose Kerr, Asian Affairs

"This volume is . . . the first book-length study in English of this enigmatic and important master. . . . Wang sums up decades of research . . . in a rich, authoritative account. Bada's genealogy and his real name, his poetry, his Buddhist career, his calligraphy and his painting . . . are probingly discussed, and convincing solutions are proposed for longstanding problems. . . . Barnhart . . . treats the works in the exhibition, one after another. Interpretations of the paintings and their inscriptions—political, philosophical, personal—are proposed which . . . advance our understanding of Bada Shanren's paintings, in depth and sophistication, beyond anything attained before. . . . We . . . are grateful for a major contribution to Bada Shanren studies, and to Chinese painting studies as a whole."—James Cahill, Journal of Asian Studies
ISBN: 9780300049336
Publication Date: September 10, 1990
Co-publisher: Copublished with the Yale University Art Gallery
304 pages, x
400 b/w + 4 color illus.
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