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Creator Name: Zhang, Wu
Creator Nationality: Chinese
Creator Role: Artist
Creator Name-CRT: Wu Zhang
Creator Name: Chu, Huan
Creator Name-CRT: Huan Chu
Title: The Nine Songs
Title Type: Primary
Creation Start Date: 1361
Creation End Date: 1361
Creation Date: 1361
Object Type: Paintings
Materials and Techniques: handscroll, ink on paper
Dimensions: Overall: 28cm x 438.2cm
Inscriptions: Inscribed by the calligrapher in 1361.
AMICA Contributor: The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 1959.138
Credit Line: Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund
Context: The subject of this narrative scroll is a lyric work composed by the poet Chu Yuan (343-278 BC) who lived in the southern state of Chu during the late Bronze Age. Based on popular ritual incantations, his songs name eleven different spirits. They eventually became one section within a larger compilation entitled the Chuci (Songs of the South), a book of poetic writings that enjoyed great popularity throughout Chinese history. Chu Yuan's contributions had particular appeal among scholars and civil servants in large part because of his biography. Unfairly dismissed from governmental service, Chu Yuan, a virtuous statesman, was exiled and, in his despair, eventually drowned himself in the Mile River. The songs, actually appeals to the spirits, are imbued with the sadness of an unjust fate.This scroll was created while China was ruled by Mongol khans, a time when the Nine Songs must have had particular significance since many educated scholars were unjustly barred from careers in government. It is a collaborative work that united two great masters of the brush, the painter Zhang Wu and the calligrapher Chu Huan. Divided into eleven sections, the scroll contains illustrations of the primary subject of the lyric, frequently joined by attendants, each followed by a transcription of Chu's verse. Befitting the archaic flavor of the subject, Zhang isolates his figures and renders them in the linear baimiao technique with added washes of ink. For this method of painting, the painter must control the natural flexibility of the brush, maintaining an even pressure on its head while guiding its tip along the spine of each stroke. Suggesting both their appearance and the powerful strength required for their creation, these polished strokes are popularly known as tiexian (iron wire lines), a term first used to describe certain examples of archaic calligraphy. A similar degree of brush control is evident in Chu Huan's inscriptions where rounded, centered- tip strokes terminate with plump full ends. Although a note written at the end of the scroll states that it was based on a work by the Northern Song scholar-amateur painter Li Gonglin (about 1041-1106), the painting is both fresh and spontaneous, reflecting the power and exhilaration that could be inspired in the Chinese tradition by the earlier works of great masters. K.W.
AMICA ID: CMA_.1959.138
AMICA Library Year: 1998
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