Examination of Painting


Hua jian (Examination of painting), compiled by Tang Hou of the early Yuan dynasty, is an important early work on painting theory, which contains the compiler’s appreciation, evaluation, and authentication of art. The work is of great value in understanding early Yuan painting and its connoisseurship. The ancestral home of Tang Hou (circa 1250‒1320), courtesy name Junzai, style name Caizhenzi, was Shanyin (present-day Huai’an Xian, Jiangsu). His grandfather moved to Jingkou (present-day Zhenjiang, Jiangsu). Tang Hou served as the rector of Lanting Shuyuan Academy in Shaoxinglu Circuit and also as a clerk at a protectorate headquarters. He was conversant in classics and history and was an expert in archaeology. It was said that during Tang Hou’s sojourn in the capital he conducted discussions on painting with the famed painter and calligrapher Ke Jiusi and was appointed the erudite of painting. He also compiled this work, which was published in about the late-Zhiyuan reign or early Dade era (1280‒1300) and revised and reissued by later generations. The work lists chronologically dozens of painters dating from the Three Kingdoms (220‒80) up to the Song and Yuan dynasties (960‒1368), and includes pictures from other countries, including Korea. The appendices contain Tang Hou’s thoughts on methods of appreciating and collecting paintings. Most of his assessments focused on the style and spirit of brushwork. His comments were precise and insightful. This work was often published as part of a series; rarely has it been seen as a single edition. This copy is a facsimile handwritten copy of an early Ming edition by Yezhuzhai of Shen Clan (The Wild Bamboo Studio), owned by collector Shen Yuwen of Wuxian (present-day Suzhou, Jiangsu) during the Jiajing reign (1521‒67). The copy was held and annotated by renowned book collectors. According to a postscript by Shi Chenji, the copying was completed in the spring of the 44th year (1565) of the Jiajing reign; thus the work could have been completed around that date.

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Shen Yu Wen, Suzhou, Jiangsu


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Physical Description

1 volume : stitch-bound ; 25.2 x 14.2 centimeters

Last updated: June 7, 2017