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Princeton University Press
The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting: A Facsimile of the 1887-1888 Shanghai Edition

The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting: A Facsimile of the 1887-1888 Shanghai Edition

by Princeton University Press


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Originally published as Volume 2 of The Tao of Painting, this is the first English translation of the famous Chinese handbook, the "Chieh Tzu Yüan Hua Chuan" (original, 1679-1701). Mai-mai Sze has translated and annotated the texts of instructions, discussions of the fundamentals of painting, notes on the preparation of colors, and chief editorial prefaces.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691018195
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 03/21/1978
Series: Bollingen Series (General) , #80
Pages: 648
Sales rank: 629,012
Product dimensions: 8.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)

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The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting

Chieh Tzu Yüan Hua Chuan, 1679-1701

By Mai-Mai Sze


Copyright © 1963 Bollingen Foundation
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-691-09940-8


Preface to the First (1679) Edition

PEOPLE nowadays enjoy looking at landscape paintings as much as at the scenery itself. Panels of screens offer countless vistas, and scrolls and albums spread before us a variety of scenes—distant hills and plains, blue-green mountain peaks, and murmuring brooks. At one moment a landscape may appear overcast with mist and clouds, at another the view emerges clear and fair. Or one may find oneself by a spring of pure flowing water, ready to set out over hills and ravines, free to roam without having to wax one's sandals or take up a bamboo staff.

It is one thing, however, to look at pleasant pictures painted by other people and another matter entirely to paint such pictures. Appreciating the works of others, one is essentially a spectator receiving impressions; whereas, in painting pictures, the conception originates and rises from the deepest recesses of the heart. There is this significant difference in the approach to landscape painting.

All my life I have loved landscape painting, but it has been the pleasure of looking at other people's work, for I myself cannot paint. In the past, when I used to travel, I often met painters, men who had followed in the footsteps of Mo-chieh and Ch'ang-k'ang, who kindly let me discuss with them the Tao in painting. When, however, I began to ask questions, they would knit their brows and declare: "It is easy to appreciate the idea of Tao but quite another matter to give it form."

I have been ill now for the past year and unable to travel, being confined to sitting or lying in my room, shut off from all other activities. Fortunately I have paintings and so can unroll whole landscapes on my table. They are here before me even while I eat or sleep. I enjoy this kind of wandering while at rest. It has prompted me to write on one of these scrolls: "Many walled cities under my roof and many landscapes before my eyes." In my solitude, I have regretted not having the knowledge and ability to write about this branch of the Seven Manifestations.

This thought was in my mind one day when I was talking with my son-in-law, Yin-po, and I said to him: "Painting is an ancient art. How is it that there are excellent treatises on the painting of figures, birds, animals, flowers, and plants, yet the most important category, landscape, seems to have been neglected? Do you suppose that most of us can only enjoy looking at landscape paintings?—that, while we may understand the idea of Tao in painting, it is really impossible for us to be more definite about it? Is it true, do you suppose, that landscape painters through the centuries have purposely guarded this secret among themselves?"

Thereupon, Yin-po brought out an album. "This has been in our family for many generations," he said.

At the sight of the album my curiosity was aroused. On examining it carefully, I found that it contained copious examples of the methods of individual masters of various schools of (landscape) painting. I particularly noted the comments and their calligraphic style, for they seemed to bear the touch of Ch'ang-hêng, of our family. At the end of the album were two seals, inscribed "Li Family Collection" and "Liu-fang," which confirmed my impression that the album was compiled by Ch'ang-hêng.

Since the album was a record of a private collection, the material and its arrangement were not suitable for a manual of painting. Just then, however, Yin-po brought out another album, and he smilingly explained: "When I was living at the Mustard Seed Garden in Nanking, I commissioned Wang An-chieh to rearrange, enlarge, and edit the whole work, an arduous task. Finally, after three years, he completed the work."

Eagerly I took up the album and examined it. I could not help applauding the whole and each of its parts, stopping here and there to sigh with admiration. The plan of the book included the original forty-three pages, to which had been added detailed instructions on the painting of trees and branches, including methods of dotting leaves and of drawing mountain ranges, peaks, rivers, and waterfalls, as well as banks, slopes, rocks, bridges, paths, palaces, houses, boats, and carts. Wang An-chieh, in moments of leisure, had copied out the whole work, enlarging and rearranging it to a total of one hundred and thirty-three pages. He included examples of the styles of many of the masters and of every important school of painting. Furthermore, to aid the beginner, he added forty pages of text on brushwork and the handling of ink tones, composition, and perspective. Following the instructions in this book, one could eventually paint a picture of what hitherto had been locked in one's imagination—could produce results, as it were, with a few twists of the wrist. Would it not be a pity to hide this wonderful book from the world? I have been most anxious to see it published so that generation after generation of those who love to look at landscapes may also learn to appreciate landscape painting and, moreover, may not only read the Manual but also try to paint. For, as the saying goes, thus may ten thousand miles be illustrated in a foot, and one may wander in a landscape while actually at rest and never have to go any distance.

Written on the third day after the summer solstice in the Chi Wei cycle, the eighteenth year of the reign of K'ang Hsi (1679), by Li-wêng (Fisherman of the Lake) Li Yü at Ts'êng Yüan in Wu-shan.


The Fundamentals of Painting

Ch'ing Tsai T'ang Discussion of the Fundamentals of Painting

LU CH'AI says:

Among those who study painting, some strive for an elaborate effect and others prefer the simple. Neither complexity in itself nor simplicity is enough.

Some aim to be deft, others to be laboriously careful. Neither dexterity nor conscientiousness is enough.

Some set great value on method, while others pride themselves on dispensing with method. To be without method is deplorable, but to depend entirely on method is worse.

You must learn first to observe the rules faithfully; afterwards, modify them according to your intelligence and capacity. The end of all method is to seem to have no method.

Among the masters, it was a different matter. Ku (K'ai-chih) Ch'ang-k'ang applied his colors sprinkling and splashing, and the grass and flowers seemed to grow at the movement of his hand. Han Kan, whose picture The Yellow Horse was unique, used to pray before he painted, and his brush was inspired. At a later stage, therefore, one may choose either to proceed methodically or to paint seemingly without method.

First, however, you must work hard. Bury the brush again and again in the ink and grind the inkstone to dust. Take ten days to paint a stream and five to paint a rock. Then, later, you may try to paint the landscape at Chialing. Li Ssu-hsün took months to paint it; Wu Tao-tzu did it in one evening. Thus, at a later stage, one may proceed slowly and carefully or one may rely on dexterity.

First, however, learn to hold in your thoughts the Five Peaks. Do not concentrate on the whole ox. Study ten thousand volumes and walk ten thousand miles. Clear the barriers set by Tung and Chü, and pass straightway into the mansions of Ku and Cheng. Follow Ni Yün-lin painting in the style of Yu Ch'êng: when he painted, mountains soared and springs flowed, waters ran clear and forests spread vast and lonely. Be like Kuo Shu-hsien, who with one stroke of the brush released a kite on a hundred-foot string, who painted with equal facility the large and the small—towers and many-storied buildings as easily as the hair of oxen and the thread of a silkworm. Thus, at a later stage, an elaborate effect is acceptable and a simple one is equally acceptable.

If you aim to dispense with method, learn method. If you aim at facility, work hard. If you aim for simplicity, master complexity.

Finally, there are the Six Canons, the Six Essentials, the Six Qualities, the Three Faults, and the Twelve Things To Avoid. How can one disregard them?

* * *

Notes on Eighteen Basic Principles, Standards, and Rules

The Six Canons (Lu Fa)

In the Southern Ch'i period (479-501), Hsieh Ho said:

Circulation of the Ch'i (Breath, Spirit, Vital Force of Heaven) produces movement of life.

Brush creates structure.

According to the object draw its form.

According to the nature of the object apply color.

Organize composition with the elements in their proper places.

In copying, seek to pass on the essence of the master's brush and methods.

(Lu Ch'ai, citing one school of thought, adds:)

All but the First Canon can be learned and practiced to the point of true accomplishment.

(As for the ability to make manifest aspects of the) Ch'i in its constant revolving and mutation, one has to be born with that gift.

The Six Essentials (Lu Yao) and the Six Qualities (Lu Ch'ang)

In the Sung period, Liu Tao-ch'un said:

First Essential: Action of the Ch'i and powerful brushwork go together.

Second Essential: Basic design should be according to tradition.

Third Essential: Originality should not disregard the li (the principles or essence) of things.

Fourth Essential: Color (if used) should enrich.

Fifth Essential: The brush should be handled with tzu jan (spontaneity).

Sixth Essential: Learn from the masters but avoid their faults.

First Quality: To display brushstroke power with good brushwork control.

Second Quality: To possess sturdy simplicity with refinement of true talent.

Third Quality: To possess delicacy of skill with "vigor of execution.

Fourth Quality: To exhibit originality, even to the point of eccentricity, without violating the li of things.

Fifth Quality: In rendering space by leaving the silk or paper untouched, to be able nevertheless to convey nuances of tone.

Sixth Quality: On the flatness of the picture plane, to achieve depth and space.

The Three Faults (San Ping)

In the Sung period, Kuo Jo-hsü said:

The Three Faults all are connected with the handling of the brush.

The first is described as "boardlike" (p'an), referring to the stiffness of a weak wrist and a sluggish brush. Shapes of objects become flat and thin, lacking in solidity.

The second is described as "carving" (k'o), referring to the labored movement of the brush caused by hesitation. Heart and hand are not in accord. In drawing, the brush is awkward.

The third is described as "knotted" (chieh), referring to the knotted effect when the brush seems to be tied, or in some way hindered from moving freely, and lacks pliancy.

The Twelve Things To Avoid (Shih Êrh Chi)

In the Yiian period, Jao Tzu-jan said:

The first thing to avoid is a crowded, ill-arranged composition.

The second, far and near not clearly distinguished.

The third, mountains without Ch'i, the pulse of life.

The fourth, water with no indication of its source.

The fifth, scenes lacking any places made inaccessible by nature."

The sixth, paths with no indication of beginning and end.

The seventh, stones and rocks with one face.

The eighth, trees with less than four main branches.

The ninth, figures unnaturally distorted.

The tenth, buildings and pavilions inappropriately placed.

The eleventh, atmospheric effects of mist and clearness neglected."

The twelfth, color applied without method.

The Three Classes (San P'in)

Hsia Wên-yen said:

Ch'i yün shêng tung (circulation of the Ch'i produces the movement of life) is a principle of Heaven. When it is operating through the painter, the effect in his picture is beyond definition, and the painter may be said to belong in the shên (divine) class.

When brushwork is of a high order, colors appropriate, and expression clear and harmonious, the painter may be placed in the miao (marvelous and profound) class.

When form is realized and the rules have been applied, the painter is of the nêng (able and accomplished) class.

Lu Ch'ai adds:

This is a summary of the classifications. However, Chu Ching-chên (tzu Ching-yüan), of the T'ang period, put above these three classes another, the i (impetuous and extraordinary). Huang Hsiu-fu also placed this class ahead of both the shên and the miao. This order was based on the classification made by Chang Yen-yüan, who said: "If a picture misses tzu jan (spontaneity and complete naturalness), it falls into the shên class. If it misses being in the miao class, it ranks among works conscientiously executed."

Chang's remarks are certainly odd. When a picture attains the shên or miao classifications, surely that is the end of the matter, for how can it fail to have tzu jan, the quality of spontaneity and naturalness? The i class should certainly be placed apart from the Three Classes. But how can one discuss the relative merits of the miao and nêng classes without taking into account ability and conscientious effort? One can get so deeply involved in detail that there is no true criticism, merely flattery. Moreover, painters and pictures would be falsely classified. I, for one, will have none of it!

The division of the schools

The division in Buddhism into Northern and Southern Schools began in the T'ang period. A similar division in painting also took place in the T'ang period. The painters representing these two schools did not, however, come respectively from the north and the south; it was not a geographical classification.

The Northern School was founded by Li Ssu-hsün and his son. Their style was followed and carried on by Chao Kan, Chao Po-chii, and (Chao) Po-su in the Sung period, and later by Ma Yiian and Hsia (Kuei) Yen-chih.

The Southern School began with Wang (Wei) Mo-chieh, who used light washes and inaugurated the method of kou chê (broken outline). This style was used and carried on by Chang Tsao, Ching Hao, Kuan T'ung, Kuo Chung-shu, Tung Yüan, Chü-jan, and the Mi's, father and son, down to the Four Great Masters of the Yuan period.

The situation in painting was similar to that in Buddhism after the time of the Sixth Patriarch (Hui-nêng, 637–713), when the Ma-chu and Yun-mên (branches of the Southern School of Zen Buddhism flourished and the Northern School declined).

Men of quality

Since ancient times, according to the records, there have been men of renown who were distinguished patrons of the art of painting. No generation has lacked such individuals. One is curious not only about the pictures they collected but also about the men themselves; in fact, their pictures make one wonder what sort of men they were.

During the Han period, there were Chang Hêng and Ts'ai Yung; in the Wei period, Yang Hsiu. At the time of the Three Kingdoms there was Chu-ko Liang; he collected pictures done in the Southern School manner, which brought about such great changes. In the Chin period, there were Chi K'ang, Wang Hsi-chih, and Wang I, all writers, all painters of the i (impetuous and extraordinary) class, and all officials. After them came Wang Hsieh-chih and Wên Ch'iao. In the Sung period, there was Yiian Kung, who owned the famous landscape painting entitled Chiang Huai. During the Southern Ch'i dynasty, there was Hsieh Hui-lien, and in the Liang period, T'ao Hung-ching, who received the picture Landscape with Inn and Two Oxen as a gift from Emperor Wu Chêng. In the T'ang period, there was Lu Hung, who owned the picture The Grass Hut, and in the Sung period there were Ssu-ma Kuang, Chu Hsi, and Su Shih. That's all!


Excerpted from The Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting by Mai-Mai Sze. Copyright © 1963 Bollingen Foundation. Excerpted by permission of PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

  • Frontmatter, pg. i
  • Publisher's Note, pg. v
  • Contents, pg. vii
  • Traditional Chronology, pg. viii
  • Introduction, pg. ix
  • Preface to the Shanghai (1887—88) Edition, pg. 1
  • Preface to the First (1679) Edition, pg. 11
  • The Fundamentals of Painting, pg. 15
  • Book of Trees, pg. 51
  • Book of Rocks, pg. 127
  • Book of Jên-wu, pg. 219
  • Preface to Parts II and III of the First Complete Edition (1701), pg. 317
  • Book of the Orchid, pg. 321
  • Book of the Bamboo, pg. 359
  • Book of the Plum, pg. 397
  • Book of the Chrysanthemum, pg. 433
  • Book of Grasses, Insects, and Flowering Plants, pg. 465
  • Book of Feathers-and-Fur and Flowering Plants, pg. 523
  • Concluding Notes on the Preparation of Colors, pg. 579
  • Summary of the Chieh Τzŭ Yüan Hua Chuan, pg. 589
  • Appendix: Analysis of Basic Terms, pg. 609
  • Index, pg. 623

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