Traditional Chinese Paintings
Li Xiangping and his Thoughts
GENUINE FLAIR FOR”WILDESS”
---random Thoughts on Bai Xiaojn and His landscape paintings
Bai Xiaojun and I were classmates at middle school and we have been intimate friends ever since. Looking back to the past,we used to fall into a chat whenever we met,with our train of thoughts floating aimlessly. Living far apart from each other as we do now,I feel thirsty for a chance for us to have a heart-to-heart talk over the views of the wordly affairs,while taking sips of wine in gentle breeze.At that time,anything whatever might have become the interesting thread of discourse between us----the civilized or the popular taste,the old or the young,the natural or the social,the rayional or the irrational,the house-hold affairs or the state-affairs such as the election of state heads etc..with 4 seasons circulating year after year,we had found ourselves intersted in the subject of spiritual pursit,speaking evasively about the genuine transcendence beyond the earthly world and individual existence.The reason for it might be that,as often as not,we people in the present age have found fatiguing to live in this material world.Everyone feels it hard to live a natural and unstrained life owing to hin-drance of the Age or of the man-made norms.
The way in which Xiaojun conducts himself is to be serious and in dealing with everything and nothing if not a gentleman.In reaing and painting,he never confines his train of thoughts to the orthodox ficlds.His inquisitiveness and de-tachment form the popular taste have resulted form his life and keenest sense of life plus his tours of the famed mountains and rivers throughout the country and the wild,barren areas in South-China.He has a self-made seal he loves best.On the seal he inscribed the epigram which reads,”Why should one follow the vogue?Why should one strive for a false reputation?”These words truly reflect his inner-world,in which he has his pwn pursuit of life.In contrast with us book worms,however,he has more delights of life and he is more aware of what is really beautiful Universe,As an artst,Xiaojun knows that if he can perceive and represent the true beauty,it is in large measure because he is greatly influ-enced by the ancient Chinese culture that has taught him how to shake off the yoke of the modern times in which people vie whit each other for fame and gain and,he is so detached a man that he put his mind under the dictates of everything natural rether than the dictates of anything supernatural.
The ordinary people,confronted whit the fallacious reality in this mortal world,feel that they are in a hopelessly passive state and they can do nothing but keep mute while bueying their heads on their laps at a corner,They feel it difficult to tran-scend realities.But as long as we don’t lose,deep in heart,the pursuit to be a real man never stop creating the cultures that are not restricted by the norms in the real life,we will not blame god and feel sick at heart.Such a detached mental state is a spiritual world that we must look up to,that human beings regard as orignal,ingenuous,worth one’s efforts to achieve,that enables a person to thoroughly remould himself and transcend himself and the realities,The other side of the problem is,if one os preoccupied whit one’s own fame and gain strives after one’s personal transient happiness,he will no doubt have this spirtual world missing.Without its existence at heart,one is bound to meet with failure and feel tired-out in any enterprise,still less the arrival in the so-called realm of a lofty mental state.
Admiring Xiaojun’s mountains-and-waters paintings,one would feel as if Xiaojun’s inner-world were palpable,which is a world of culture creation never restricted by the realities of our age.Xiaojun is good at “learning feom Nature”,”activating an inspiration from gullies and valleys”and”developing his creative that lie in his innerworld”;in addition,he is good at utilizing these intellectual faculties of his to the best advantage.That’s why his landscape paintings are preeminent above that of others, very much loved by the audience,highly valued and regarded as Bei Xiaojun’s style by the circle of fine arts.Xiaojun has brought forward,through his works,the spirit the ancient Chinese paintings are imbued with,a spirit that can be in-terpreted as simple,elegant and awkwaroking.But,beyond the retional sense and delights of the ancient Chinese artists,his works represent a special artistic conception,which expresses his transcendental experience and deep perspectives of modern life,filled with individual ups and downs,with torential changes.This artistic conception of his is a sort of so-called psycologiceal deposits of the traditional Chinese culture.What his works represent to our eyes are the vigorous and dynamic strokes,vast and saddening backgrounds,which have eventually formed fresh,discernible,beantiful pictures full of aesthetic values.Xiaojun’s landscape paintings lay bare not only the natural features of mountains,rivers and woods but his active in-spiration as well.He wishes he might have had his inspiration activated long before and he also wishes he could enjoy the plea-sure of life with a strong passion for it and a well-meant view of it.By getting oneself out of this mortal world,we mean the spirit of transcendentalism,The mountains and waters at the painting brush of Xiaojun can be interpreted,if in the Gatha of the ancient enlightened masters of Zen Sect,as”Mountains in view are not mountains;waters in view are not waters,”His landscape paintings are imbued with his penetrating ideas that come from his special inspiration.As is quite true in what Mr.Huang Hongbin has stated,”One will not be able to extract the essence of mountains and rivers unless one cherishes the Uni-verse and its essence at heart.”The so-called essence of mountains and rivers lies hidden at a heart of sincerity.
It was in Guilin’s beautiful landscape that Bai Xiaojun,now a renowned young artist,was brough up.This may explain why he is deep in love with Nature.Whit a careful look at his paintings,however,one will find out there are not many that depict the real scenic wonders along the Lijiang River.The marvellous scenery he has shown through his creative jobs,em-bedding the bearty of Guilin’s landscape,represent far more primitive narural essence of the mountains and rivers in South-China,Appealing that Guilin’s landscape is,yet it is too picturesque to be mighty,majestic,depressingly magnificrnt.To take Guilin’s landscape as the only theme of his creation,Xiaojun would tail to develop a unique style as it is in his mountains-and-waters paintings,That’s why Xiaojun has devoted major part of his painstakking efforts to depicting the mountain vil-lages,peaks and woods in remore rural areas of South-China with his sensitive dots and strokes.The effect he tries to achieve is uniqueness through simplicity and widness through gracefulness.Xiaojun once declared in joke,”My works can be called an unorthodox culture in the school of tradional Chinese paintings.”Threr is no exaggeration in it,I think.
The bleak mountains and strewn big rocks;a pond in the widerness;the wind-whipped willows and the waning moon;a few ancient trees;the gloomy clouds;the obscure lines of a mountain in silhouett;the forests and peaks;the return-ing cattle at sunset;the narrow paths twisting among the mountains and the dimly-seen hamlerts facing the mountains in the south.All these scenes emerging from Xiaojun’s landscape paintingss a flair for the beauty in the rural arcas.All Xiaojun’s works,though very simple in style.out of this material world in significace,are charaterized by the extraordinary ideas and the keenest outlook on life.There are spring rain,winter snow,the sun in the summer sky and the moon in the aurumn night that appear in his paintings and yet what lie hidden behind the pictures are innerworld of sincerity and his genius exposed by his painting brush,His outlook on the earthly world is nothingness------no self-oriented things,no difference between the Chinese and the westerners,no distinctive demarcation between the ancient and the modern and,even no Xiaojun himself.This is what Mr.Wang Guowei described as”无我之境---Wu Wo Zhi Jing”(i.e.”To identify one’s individual existence with the exstence of the Unierse”)
The only way for one to achieve “Wu Wo Zhi Jing”is to be sincere.And to be sincere,one should not become a syco-phant for the norms of the Age;one should not become rootless,false-fame seeking;one should not be so calculating as to win favour of the audience by showing off one’s seemingly innovative but insignificart works.Only whrn one has surpassed the predecessors,transdended oneself and the earthly world,can one dissolve his existrnce into the Universe,draw out the essence of the Universe and eventually become one with the Universe.
“诚”,which means faithfulness and conscientiousness,is a key factor of the traditional Chinese culture,Its connotation is that a man’s creative potential can be unified with the Nature.It also means a sort of“圆满”(i.e.coming to a successfulissue),in the course of which one realizes his always-chershed personal vatural way.Therefore,it is the only the path to one’s fally understanding of the Universe;it is a creative passion and enlightenment aroused in one’s heart the moment one hasgrasped the essence of Nature and broken through the control of all superficial phenomena.Xiaojun has know the true meaning of fine arts and life by dint of his flair for the true beauty of mountains and waters in Nature,Such a viewpoint of mine can be proved by the fact that,very wild in style though his landscape paintings are,their essence is to be true to life;moreover,they represent a new aesthetical tendencey which we people of the modern times should have.To be exact,it is an aesthetcal tendency that urges us to transcend ourselves and the outside world.
In the Unverse,everything comes foom nothing and vice versa.Originally,the whold was a worldofChaos,void,dark and formless.There was neither natural nor already-made civilization.Nothing was the basis of everything and everything orginated from nothing.This is the natural of the Changes Of all the human cultures.of all the historical figures who have earned remarkable academic attainments within the circle of the Chinese culture,there has been no one who does not comprehend this Taoist philosophy and not reach the ideal realm in accordance with it.
Xiaojun’s mountains-and-waters paintings,though in gloomy tones,display vast and magnificent bucolic scenery;it is in-dipensable with his deep understanding of what the traditional Chinese culture really means.The changes in the heaven or on the earth never deviate from the law of Nature,which is denoted by the six forms of “爻”-----the continuous line”----“(阳)and the broken line”----“(阴)-----in the Book of Changes.This philosophy tells why man should let Nature have its own way without sticking to the phenomena or one’s own points of view.Only by so doing can one detach himself from the mate-rial world,return to the original nature and enter a spititural world which is carefree and devoid of man-made norms.As a result,one have such a daring spirit as of an isolated peak in the desert,a lonely cloud in the sky or strong wind in howls,never dictated by the manners and morals of our age.In such a spirit,one will have a substantial inner-life and a never-ending insight view of the outside world under the cover of superficial phenomena;one will not care a whoop about who are sages and men of vitue,heroes or robbers in history,about what graceful or popular taste is.As long as one is sincere,one will always remain what one is.With sinceriry as the only norm of life,ong will be able to cope with any changes.
As Xiaojun’s closest friend,I am he will suocceed in his careet and I congrstulate him on every bit of his success.But I’d like to see a never-ending transcendence of himself,for it is of not negligible importance to him and to the reconstruction of the traditional Chinese culture.I don’t intend to babblr of his artistic achievements here.He held his one-man show and took part in exhibitions home and abroad many times.Most of his works hane been carried on the magazines and housed by China’s are galleries and collected by foreign friends.The present album servers as an evidence of a starting point for his futher transcendence of himself and his future contributions to the rejuvenation of the time-honoured Chinese culture.
I take the liberty to use the above chatty words with my friend Xiaojun as a preface to this album.
Li Xiangping Doctor of History Associate Professor Deputy-Director Institute of Chinese Culture Thr Faculty of Liberal Arts Shanghai Uniuersity
Chinese Ink and Wash Paintings
Bai XiaoJun Paintings are exhibited worldwide in Museums and Galleries