Issue 3 – Curator; Giacomo Bruni
Lin Haizhong, other names include, ‘Master of the Rivers and Stream Pavilion’ 林泉阁主人, ‘Man who lies in the Red Mountain Clouds’ 卧霞山人, is currently a full time professor of Chinese Mountain and Water Painting in the department of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou 中国美术学院. In addition to being a highly accomplished and recognized artist, Haizhong also serves as Supervisor to both Masters and Doctoral students of the Academy. Lin Haizhong is deeply focused on fostering and passing down the authentic tradition of Chinese Painting. Further, he also searches to find new meaning in its use and development. His work presents an expression of the ancient meeting contemporary consciousness. In addition, his paintings establish a realm that is both unadorned with ancient simplicity, quietness, caracterized by raw and spontaneous movement. His works also breathe an expression of the current day. There is an endless aesthetic joyfulness and boundless power to his works’ spiritual achievement.
On Chuanyi moxie The Method of “Transmission and Copying”
How do we understand the act of painting? What exactly is painting? I have been engaged in teaching and painting practice at the China Academy of Art for almost 30 years. It would appear that I have learned some things along the lines of technique, painting history, and theory. However, I still don’t have quite a clear picture. Looking back over the past few years, I return to the most fundamental questions: What is painting? What is Chinese painting? What is Mountain and Water (Shanshui) painting? Students often ask me such questions, “What is your understanding of Chinese painting? What kind of criteria should one use to judge a good Chinese painting?” These are elementary and straightforward questions, but sometimes I genuinely do not know how to answer them! Some time ago, I taught my students about linmo 临摹 (the practice of observing and making close studies from masterworks). In discussing this subject, I spoke about the concept of Chuanyi moxie 传移摹写 (transmitting and copying or imitating) discussed in Liufa 六法 the “Six Methods” or “Procedures.” This gave me an epiphany. I realized that many of the issues I sought to understand had already been clarified in this fundamental principle. In the past, I only understood “transmitting and copying” as to mean the act or practice of copying. In China, when learning to paint, one often starts by copying the works of his or her ancestors. Copying is seen as a shortcut to learning painting. However, now in thinking about the term “transmitting and copying,” I believe it is not that simple and has a deeper meaning, but I hadn’t paid attention before.
“Transmit” chuán 传
“To Transmit” in this sense has a very profound meaning. Initially, I thought that chuán meant to learn from copying the original paintings, but this is entirely false. Chuán refers to ‘passing down a continuous system‘ and to ‘laws.’ In terms of the form this might take, it may just be an ancient painting, but what such a painting actually conveys is the method of painting. What is Chuantong (often translated as ‘tradition,’ but literally meaning, passing down a continuous system, “pass” 传 and “unify” 统)? It refers to the painting’s rules and order, quality or character, underlying consciousness, and the link between the ancients and the path to higher understanding. What can be passed down? It is the profound wisdom and insight of the ancients or their most fundamental knowledge concerning depicting mountains and waters. These aspects are what we as descendants should “pass” or continue to transmit down to our posterity. For example, “the ‘Bone Method’ of using the brush” 骨法用笔. This represents a rule or procedure of painting that can be transmitted; “[Engendering] a sense of Spirit Consonance” 气韵生动 is also a means of chuán or passing down. Finally, the “Six Methods” themselves are also such a heritage that can be transmitted or passed down, chuán.
“Shift, Move” yí 移
The ancients used the word yí well, and it is certainly a term that encourages endless consideration. Yí is empathy 移情. It is a method or means that can make one empathize. For example, because this tradition is so excellent, the concept of yí allows painters to truly enter into the practice, corresponding to it and inheriting and transmitting it themselves. It is marvellous. I once spoke to a Japanese friend, who is a professor specializing in painting reproductions at the Kyoto University of Art. We chatted, and I listened to his brilliant story and was very inspired. He said that simply copying ancient paintings is extremely meaningless, but harmonizing oneself with ancient works is a kind of enjoyment.
When he used to copy ancient paintings, he found many new things in them. He said that copying the ancients is not as easy as it seems, and it is significant to copy the works of the ancients down precisely as they are. He spoke in an intoxicating manner, and I believe that he has found the true meaning and essence of “transmitting and copying.” Good works can indeed engender empathy. At that time, I thought of a story that I once read about a student learning how to play the qin 琴. The teacher said to his student, “I can no longer teach you. I will ask my teacher to teach you.” Then he took the student to the beach and took a boat to ‘go get’ his teacher. However, on the first and second day, he did not return. By the third day, the student, facing the sea, began to “empathize” with the situation, and when he played his instrument again, he suddenly became enlightened. In fact, during ancient times, this empathy was an essential learning method. Tradition is very elusive to us. However, it is possible
to use empathy to perceive and participate and align oneself with it. This method is profound. So, when I read this story, I was inspired because it told me that some things can be put into words. But more things cannot be put into words and expressed. For this reason, it is vital to use the method yí to learn. This is really the wisdom of our ancients.
“Copy” mó 摹
Mó is the diligent process of imitation under the guidance and calling of tradition. In fact, copying is a confirmation process, reaching the mutual trace of the mind and the hand. When we learn, we must constantly put what we have learned (intellectually) into practice. If we can do so, even if only in a small part, we will find great satisfaction in that small art of implementation. “Transferring and copying” represent parts of the most direct method, Xinfa 心法, of learning Chinese painting. When our mental observation can finally align with our hands, we will find harmony with all that we have learned. When we can use the method of Chuanyi moxie “transmitting and copying,” directly, all that we have learned will naturally flow out.
“Write, depict” xiě 写
Chinese painting requires a careful study of learning to use the brush 用笔, which is absent in other painting traditions. Such a fact reflects Chinese painting’s sophistication. Chinese people reckon that achieving good brushwork is to grasp the crux of painting. It is like holding a key firmly in your hands. However, in the western canon, understandings of brushwork only care about “the mark.” Chinese believe that paintings are made by the brush and propose using “the ‘Bone Method’ in one’s brushwork. This represents another point of sophistication. Chinese believe that to paint, it is fundamental to understand the use of the brush, and even believe that painting has to follow stroke order, just like writing characters. The stroke order and atmosphere of a painting have a direct correspondence to that of a painter. This is a very nuanced understanding. In the West, the realization of the beauty and significance of “the mark” made via the brushstroke in painting happened very late. More particularly, this was the discovery of the Impressionists. Even so, such discovery pales in comparison to what is understand about brushwork in ancient China. The ancient Chinese had an acute awareness of the spiritual resonance and character in a painting.
In summary, it is imperative to inherit the line of thoughts of the tradition by “transferring and copying”. It is a critical way to learn painting. Like painting, Chinese medicine and martial arts are also inherited traditions. What is does Chinese painting and calligraphy inherent exactly? As if broken, this inheritance has become a mystery to us, so we need to seek it out and comprehend it. How to do so? There are many methods, each with its own understanding. When I talk about imparting and inheriting and “transferring and copying,” I am not denying innovation. However, my focus is not on innovation because “Innovation” is not part of the painting methods we are discussing and is a somewhat empty topic. Whether we are talking about “learning from the ancients” 师古人 or “learning from the source of creation (Nature)” 师造化” or learning from one’s own mind/heart, “师己心” all such methods belong to our tradition and are methods and approaches to be implemented. These are not our primary goals. Our main goals are to use such tools to clarify and attain the path of great painting. Also, to continue to spiritual lifeblood of the ancients. I hope that our colleagues and friends will have the same goals in the future and walk the same path. I hope that we will all be on the same path one day, our minds open, understanding, and enlightened, and people who have found true harmony with the Dao 道.
Hidden Traces of Lakes and Mountains 湖山隐迹
——The Landscape ‘Mountain/Water’ 山水 and Culture of the West Lake, (Summer, 2013) Talk given at the Center for Chinese Culture, Paris, France
Translated by; Michael Cavayero
On the culture of “yǐn” 隐, meaning: hidden, secret, private, concealed—also meaning a kind of hermitic pilgrimage or retreat into the wilderness or life of solitude:
Historically, in China, obtaining an official position was one of life’s most important goals. However, for many, such a path was impossible to achieve. In ancient China, once this path became closed off to an individual, life would present that individual with a different option or experience. This is called “yǐn,” and this existential expression, state of mind or understanding, slowly became a culture. In the yin culture, everything is seen as transient and empty, even fame and fortune. Finally, in the end, all returns to dust! In China, the concept, culture, and spirit of yin mainly developed because of such conditions. However, once the yin lifestyle developed into a recognized cultural presence in China, its existence flourished and became something positive. Those who practiced a yin lifestyle perhaps hid in the mountains and forests or in the city. Maybe they hid in activities of Calligraphy and painting or by living peripatetically. In general, those who sought yin or the reclusive life had no fixed place and presented a free state of being.
In China, those who attain a higher level of consciousness or enlightenment are referred to as ‘Men of Dao 道. Their starting point always begins with yin or this expression of retreat and solitude. In China, we call this state of mind ‘to see clearly through the mortal life.’ This is an idiom also used by many Buddhist monks. Those who achieve this type of consciousness or practice place themselves at an extreme. Thus they achieve great wisdom; enlightenment.
The Landscape (Mountain and Waters)
This is the city where I live —— Hangzhou!
I call it a city where you can live in yin or seek such a state of mind. In the south of China, the landscape is poised and graceful; it has the reputation of being heaven on earth. Hangzhou was once was the ancient capital of China during the Southern Song dynasty. Today, it is no longer the centre of China’s political culture; it is also not China’s leading business centre. It is far away from politics. Today, there are many cities in China, far away from the political centre. However, there is only one city that has the West Lake 西湖, which is Hangzhou.
Hangzhou has a profound cultural history. It is endlessly flourishing. Once serving as China’s ancient capital in the Southern Song Dynasty, it is a microcosm, a ‘heaven on Earth’. The West Lake is its emblem. Today the West Lake is still that same vision as it was during the Southern Song Dynasty. We can see this from the painting by Li Song李嵩 West Lake 《西湖图》. He painted the West Lake surrounded by mountains on three sides, and today it is just the same.
The China Academy of Art – Qingbo Bridge Studio
中国美术学院 – 清波桥画室
This place is quiet and beautiful beyond words. Its beauty is penetrating. When people visit this studio, they become deeply awed. I don’t know how I have such an affinity to work here. I also don’t know what the future will bring……
Du Rusong 杜如松, is a Flutist with a magnanimous, heroic spirit. Masterful with the flute, he plays, The Partridge Bird Flies《鹧鸪飞》. He has unique talent. One day he came to visit me and told me this sentence:
I lived in the remoteness of the Qiantang River and its blissful open feeling,
I stared into the mountain and heard the spring, the sound of its tide,
All day I did nothing,
The moon came down, the clouds draped upon the sky and sounded with a smile.
I was incredibly moved. I could feel the sentence. It was an expression of high resonance; also, it possessed the feeling of a painting.
Because of this, I decided I wanted to create Qian Tang River Seclusion
《钱塘幽居图》 just to join in on the fun and excitement of Du’s flute music. After about several months, my former senior classmate, Yan Shanchun 严善醇, came to Hangzhou and wanted to do a brush and ink project that could be passed on and exhibited. Thus we came up with the idea to do a big painting, 250 cm by 1200 cm, about ten large screens in total. One day I would paint on the wall and look and it. It had a vast and wide quality stretching far into the distance, a solid and expressive power. My close friend Fan Yimin 范一民 came over one day and gasped at its ‘big sight’大观. Thus the painting’s name became The Great Sight of Qian Tang River 《钱塘大观图》
Ling Yin Monastery
During the Southern Song dynasty on one side of the West Lake was an exquisite court life and bustling residential district; on the other side, were faintly discernible Daoist temples and Buddhist monasteries. During that period Hangzhou was known as the “Buddhist Center of the Southeast.”东南佛国.
济公 Ji Gong
The work started in 2009/10/12. After two years of research and production on Ling Yin’s Daoji Ji Gong Hall mural project 灵隐寺济公殿壁画创, on 2011/9/7, the first stage of production was complete. Thus we began the process of installing and opening the project up to the public. The 18 murals are 3.16 meters high and nearly 2.8 meters wide, and the total length of the 18 murals connected together is 50 meters.
Tianmu Shan (Heaven’s Eye Mountain) 天目山
The flourishing of ‘Chan painting’ 禅画 has a very close connection to the West Lake. The Southern Song dynasty’s Mu Xi 牧溪 is the main representative painter of the Liu Tong Monastery School 六通寺画派.
Those enlightened men, in China we refer to them as ‘Men of ‘Dao’道人. They begin by choosing the path of yin. In China, we refer to this state of mind as ‘seeing through the world of the mortals’看破红尘. One places oneself in a position of ‘otherness’ and attains wisdom from this.
Professor Lin Haizhong discusses his love for the practice of traditional Chinese landscape painting during his visit to Potsdam, New York in the spring of 2012
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