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Biography of Huang Gongwang


Huang Gongwang (黄公望, 1269-1354) was a great painter of Yuan Dynasty and also a calligraphy. He was born in a family with the surname of Lu, and named Lu Jian, and Lu was a big surname in Changshu, Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, Jiangnan region. But at the age of seven years old, he was adopted by Huang Family in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province. At the time, his foster father was over 90 years old, and sighed with emotion when he saw this lovely and smart kid, and said ”Huang Gong Wang Zi Jiu Yi”(黄公望子久矣. Mr. Huang is eager to get a son for a long time!), and then this kid was named Huang Gongwang with a courtesy name Zi Jiu.

The Portrait of Huang Gongwang Sourced from the Part of Shengshan Painting

Due to the natural endowment, wide learning and retentive memory, Huang Gongwang longed for being an official in the government at his young age, and did some big deeds for people. But he always acted as a low-level clerk, and frustratingly, he was imprisoned because of his senior supervisors’ corruption. He was quite dissatisfied with the rule of Mongolian people, and his more than 20 years’ official career became a dream. Since then, he no longer strived for the official achievement. Subsequently, he became a Taoist of Quanzhen Taoism School, and known publicly as Yi Feng Taoist or Grand Obsession Taoist. A summary from his friend Yang Weizhen (杨维桢, 1296-1370) about his life in this period – He had a high aim but got frustrated in pursuit of official career.

This is a personal tragedy but a good thing to history of painting in China. Traditionally, the talents and well-educated men generally experienced such a process – in pursuit of the official success, and then spiritually retreated in the Taoism and Buddhism, and then indulged themselves into the literature and art ways. During the continuous changes, the social and cultural personalities are renewed. Huang Gongwang was a typical example, from a failed public servant to a great master of art. He seek for the belief through Quanzhen Taoism School, and then got a self-consideration and self-exploration. The vacancy and grand obsession put self into a seeming stupidity from wisdom, and then got the brightness of the mind in the chaos and confusions.

In Yuan Dynasty, Han people, especially the southern Han people, hardly became a high-ranking official, but they had the freedom of faith. The rulers of Mongolia advocated the multiple beliefs in folk society. The Confucianism of Han people was also emphasized by the central government of Yuan Empire. The Confucius Temple and the Imperial College were built, and the Lamaism of Tibet is also respected. The new Mongolian language was created by the eminent monks of Lamaism. And the Quanzhen Taoism was respected to be the national religion. But later, due to the conflict of Taoism and Buddhism, and the imperial system turned to Buddhism and gave a big threat to Taoism of Quanzhen.

After Yuan troops unified the whole Jiangnan Region, and Quanzhen Taoism was revived in a certain degree. Quanzhen Taoism is a new branch of Taoism, and it advocated the interconnection of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism, apart from advocating the vacancy of the heart and detaching self from the earthly world. They disagreed to the saying of body immortality, except the spiritual immortality through the non-stop spiritual cultivation. Obviously, Huang Gongwang expected not to be immortal and release the soul from the purgatory via the Quanzhen Taoism. He just tried to find the seond the living space of spirit. Due to the block of the official career, he could not walk into his ideal condition, and had to retreat to the mountains and vacancy of the spirit.

During the official times, he tried to make friends with bigwigs, and during the Taoist time, he traveled in mountains and waters. The retreat and travel in a long time were the entirety of his life. Being in a condition of Tao is a kind of spiritual life and also a normal lifestyle to him. He led a simple life of preach and divination.

Huang Gongwang began his painting life after 50 years old. During the early time from 50 to 54, he traveled around the middle and downstream areas of the Yangtze River. Zhao Mengfu, the greatest artist of painting and calligraphy and the master of zen, gave his edification to Huang Gongwang as well. Most of his painting representatives were completed after 70 years old.

Mr.Huang ranked the No.1 among four greatest masters of painting in Yuan Dynasty【the other three were Wang Meng(王蒙), Ni Zan(倪瓒) and Wu Zhen(吴镇)】. He exactly understood and succeeded the artistic cores of Dong Yuan and Ju Ran. In history of Chinese traditional painting, Huang Gongwang was a key character of milestone. He modeled the scholarly paintings of mountains and waters, and influenced the upcoming generations of artists in Ming and Qing Dynasties.

The Representative Paintings of Huang Gongwang

  • Painting of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains (富春山居图) >>>

  • Painting Scroll of Kuaixue Shiqing (快雪时晴图卷) (Click to view the painting >>>)

  • Painting of Heavenly Pool and Stone Cliff (天池石壁图) (Click to view the painting >>>)

  • Painting of Red Cliff and Jade Trees(丹崖玉树图)

  • Painting of Fuchun Daling Mountain(富春大岭图) (Click to view the painting >>>)

  • Painting of Stream, Mountains and Thatched Cottages (溪山茅屋图)

  • Painting of Nine Peaks with the Stopped Snow (九峰雪霁图)

  • Painting of the Grand View of the Mountain-River Landscape(江山览胜图)

  • Painting of the Mist and Clouds in Autumn Forest (秋林烟霭图)

  • Painting of the Steep Gully and Thick Forest(陡壑密林图)

  • Painting of the Snowed Rain in Autumn Mountains(秋山雨霁图)

  • Painting of Reading at Village in Autumn (秋村读书图)

  • Painting of Gullies and Forest Mountains (丘壑林峦图)

  • Painting of Stream and Mountains (溪山图)
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Editor: Julius from Mildchina
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