Narrative in chinese art

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Narrative in Chinese Art / Final paper Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao in the Tiantai Mountain Quincy Ngan (382051)

Introduction Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao in the Tiantai Mountain 劉晨阮肇天台山圖 (plate 1.1) pictorially narrates Liu and Ruan‟s experience of losing their ways and sojourning subsequently in a realm of the immortals in the Tiantai Mountain. The two protagonists, Liu and Ruan, appear in ten of theeleven scenes in the scroll, making it belongs to the genre of sequential narrative in the handscroll format.1 As explained by Julia Murray, sequential narrative refers to a kind of pictorial representation which represents successive events one after another on a common background in a linear series while individual episodes should be unambiguously, but not always, demarcated by inscriptions orlandscape elements.2 Other than stylistic analysis, existing scholarships on this handscroll focus on the inscriptions which narrate the story and separate the eleven scenes in the scroll. Maxwell K. Hearn and Wen Fong transcribe and translate all the inscriptions and the three colophons on the scroll.3 They notify that the well-known story of Liu and Ruan should be recorded in numerous texts throughages; but they are not interested in finding out any particular textual record that serves as the base of the inscribed text. Instead, they apparently treat the inscriptions as original text composed by the author of the scroll, Zhao Cangyun 赵苍云 (active late 13th-early 14th century), and pair each inscription with an according scene painted on either left or right of the text.4 On the other hand,Richard Barnhart mentions briefly that the author of the handscroll “obviously shares a great deal with his contemporary playwrights, the authors of

There are many examples of this kind, like the Liaoning Museum version of the Nymph of the Luo River, the illustrated scroll of the Bianwen in Bibliotheque Nationale Paris, the copy of Gu Hongzhong‟s Night Entertainment of Han Xizai, QiaoZongchong‟s Latter Prose of Red Cliff, and Wen Zhengming‟s After Zhao Boju’s Latter Prose of Red Cliff. 2 Julia K. Murray, “What is „Chinese Narrative Illustration‟?,” The Art Bulletin 4 (1998), 609. 3 Maxwell K. Hearn and Wen C. Fong, Along the Riverbank – Chinese Painting from the C.C. Wang Family Collection (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1999), 86-89, 148-151. 4 Ibid., 87-89. 1 Narrative in Chinese Art / Final paper Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao in the Tiantai Mountain Quincy Ngan (382051)

newly popular zaju 杂剧, musical drama.”5 In this regard, Fong, Hearn, and Barnhart‟s important studies can help us understanding the relationship between the inscribed text and image; but the role of the painter, his narrative device (i.e.: the way that he narrates a story), and his actualtextual and pictorial sources remain unexplored. This paper first identifies the various textual sources of the inscriptions; these sources include records in gazetteers, poems, compiled textual records, and drama. In the second section, this paper argues that there is borrowing and transforming among these textual sources, the inscription, the scenes pictorialized in the handscroll, and the dramaversion of the story. This is because the inscriptions are identical to the wordings in two textual records of the story. Also, some elements in the drama are also transformed into the handscroll. The third section of this paper highlights the pictorial narrative devices in the handscroll that make the work a rare and outstanding of sequential narrative in the Yuan dynasty. The last section of thispaper tries to use the identity of the painter as a link to connect the handscroll to other story-based handscroll in the early Yuan. The identity of the painter, who is a descendant of the Southern royal family, is the same as Zhao Mengfu and Qian Xuan, who are also left-over citizens. These painter-hermits all appropriated the stories of ancient figures and pictorially narrate the stories as an...
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