Dissertation > Art > Painting > Painting theory. > History of the art of painting

Study on the Thought of Simplicity in Dong QiChang’s Art

Author ZhangJiWen
Tutor ZhangChuanXu
School Shandong University
Course Art
Keywords Chinese culture Ming Dynasty Dong Qichang Simplicity
CLC J209.2
Type Master's thesis
Year 2010
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The art of Chinese calligraphy and painting develops its own school, whose unique aesthetic style is closely related to Chinese thinking style, philosophy, and aesthetic view. The Chinese people worship the harmony between nature and man, and express the comprehension about the universe in a distinctive way, forming a peculiar aesthetic appreciation. Simplicity is one of the aesthetic categories to embody this kind of aesthetic appreciation. The aesthetic thought of simplicity can date back to Lao Tuz, who borrowed that concept of taste simplicity, extended it to elaborate the key concept of Taoism--"Tao", and granted it with new philosophical meaning. Simplicity takes priority (Lao Tuz, chapter 31). Hence, simplicity extends over its original meaning, and becomes the symbol of the key concept of Taoism. Zhuangzi further develops the contents of simplicity. He said in the book Zhuangzi. Replying the Emperor that "if one person has no special requirement for himself, does not seek fame and wealth, follow the natural rules, and then the world comes to peace." "The friendship of the gentlemen is as simple as water while the friendship of the average people is as sweet as wine"(Zhuangzi. Shanmu). He also said "the gentlemen keep a close relationship because of simplicity while the average men would end their relationship because of over closeness"......Simplicity evolves to be experience of life-a natural undecorated aesthetic appreciation.With the development of times, the understanding of the aesthetic appreciation to simplicity also changes, and simplicity becomes the loftiest realm for people.In the field of the art of calligraphy and painting, since the art of calligraphy and painting evolved to be a conscious art form, and especially since Tang and Song Dynasty when the art of literati landscape painting became an independent art form, the realm of simplicity more and more became the ideal realm for artists. Dong Qichang in Late Ming Dynasty based on the traditional Chinese culture, followed the development rules of art and the aesthetic requirement of the time, took the realm of simplicity as the goal to pursue in calligraphy and painting art, established his noble position in Chinese history of fine arts, and finally became a master who started and developed his own school. This thesis develops surrounding the key concept of simplicity in Dong Qichang’s art, aiming at revealing why simplicity becomes the aesthetic realm for Chinese people, what contents people in different times grant simplicity, what realm simplicity really means in Dong Qichang’s mind, and how he practiced and realized the simplicity in his thought.The thesis is divided into six chapters. Chapter 1 combs the cultural origin of simplicity and its embodiments in the arts of different times. The understanding of simplicity in different times is embodied as different aesthetic tendencies without changing its basic meaning. Meanwhile, people granted simplicity richer aesthetic contents. Chapter 2 analyzes Dong Qichang’s representation of the aesthetic ideal of simplicity from the aspects of brushwork, composition, ink style and poetry. Chapter 3 elaborates Dong Qichang’s theoretical exposition about the artistic style of simplicity from the perspective of "the theory of Northern and Southern Sects" and "the three realms of study". Chapter 4 discusses how Dong Qichang finally realized the realm of simplicity through reading a lot and travelling a lot, and learning from the ancestors to accumulate the quintessence. Chapter 5 analyzes the Xinxue theory of Dong Qichang’s time, the influence of Zen thought, the influence of the teachers and friends at that given time, and his own personalities, revealing the origin of Dong Qichang’s aesthetic dream of simplicity and the time characteristics his ideal of simplicity. Chapter 6 talks about the influence of Dong Qichang’s simplicity on the following generations. The Orthodox school whose representatives are Four Wangs and the Individuality School whose representatives are Badashanren and Shi Tao are the succession and development of Dong Qichang’s art.

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