Poetry and Painting in Chinese Literati Culture

By Hong Jiang.

Published by The Arts Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The Roman poet Horace proclaimed: “As in painting, so in poetry,” and this point of view has been influential in the Western tradition. In 11th –century China, the Song poet-scholar Su Shi expressed his great admiration for the Tang poet-painter Wang Wei in the words: “There is painting in his poetry and poetry in his painting.” In China, poetry, painting, and calligraphy have been considered integrated art forms. This paper will thus focus on studying the intercreative relationship between the visual, poetic imagination of Chinese painting and the verbal, pictorial structure of the poem, one of the most characteristic products of Chinese literati culture: the integral poem-painting, or word-image. On one hand, traditional Chinese poetry was built around emotions evoked scenery. The emotional dimension of most poetry is best expressed by way of poetic language, word/image conjunction, “meaning beyond poetry,” because based on the concepts of both Taoist and Buddhist the deepest meaning of the poem cannot be conveyed by words. On the other hand, a practice of inscribing words on the picture space of literati paintings (wenren hua) reveals scholar-painters’ pursue of a meaning or feeling beyond the purely visual and formal structure in the painting: a poetic language or imagination in the painting.

Keywords: Poem and Painting, Word and Image, Scholar Painting, Literati Culture

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.225MB).

Dr. Hong Jiang

Associate Professor, German, Russian and East Asian Languages, Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA

Hong Jiang is Associate Professor of Chinese language and literature at Colorado College, USA. She received her B.A. from Fudan University, China and her Ph.D. from University of Minnesota. Her reserch interests include Chinese asthetics and Chinese women’s literature. Her most recent work is Small Well Lane: A Contemporary Chinese Play and Oral History (University of Michigan, 2002), two articles on comparative studies of aesthetic thoughts between the West and China, and one article on Nature and poetics in Chinese concepts. She is working on a book about women’s writing in Post-Mao China.

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