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September 10, 1967 - Image 2

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1967-09-10

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THE MICHIGAN DAILY SUNDAY, SE

PTEMBER 10, 1967

I

The Divine Spirit of China' :A

View by Tao-chi

0

EDITOR'S NOTE: Richard Ed-
wards is a professor in the History
of Art department whose field is
Far Eastern art. He organized the
current Tao-chi exhibit at the Mu-
seum of Art and edited the cata-
logue, "The Painting of Tao-chi."
By RICHARD EDWARDS
Seldom does one have the op-
portunity to view a major share;
of the existing works of a great
Chinese painter assembled to-
gether under one roof.
In fact, it is doubtful that this:
has ever been attempted in the:
western world. Such is the unique
opportunity that is still available
for a final week in the Museum of
Art where an exhibition of the
painting of the late seventeenth
and early eighteenth century
master, Tao-chi, is currently on{
show.+
The exhibition, along with a
similarly significant display of
Sasanian silver ,was one of the
features of the International
Congress of Orientalists held in
Ann Arbor from Aug. 13-19. Held
over for the first few weeks of
the fall term, it will not close
until Sept. 17.
Aside from a continued confir-
mation of the University's estab-
lished commitment to the area
of Asia, occasions of celebration
that involve the 150th anniver-
sary of the University and the
bringing of a great congress to
Ann Arbor, why present the
painting of a Chinese artist?
In our relations with China we
have come a long way in our
judgments and knowledge about
art and other matters since Mat-
teo Ricci in the early seventeenth
century who saw Chinese paint-
ing as "primitive" and "likely to,
resemble the dead rather than
the living." And few of us any
longer think of Confucius as an
impassive. slant-eyed sage who
strolled about a mysterious land
uttering devastating epigrams
about life at exactly the appro-
priate moment.
Still it is clear that we have
great difficulty in understanding
Asia and at social and political'
levels co-exist on suffrance, and
often in suffering, with most un-
certain and patchwork arrange-
ments. This is not to say that an
exhibition of art will offer solu-
tions to the contemporary social
problems that concern most of
us. But art has a curious way of
insisting on what is real and
the reality of the story of Chinese
painting is not to be couched in
vague generalities.
It is not, for example, the un-
folding of an enduring series of
UNT
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TWINING FLYING CLUB
TWINING AVIATION j

pleasant water-colorists who de- the appearance of divine spirit."
lighted in charming delicate As "flesh and bone." Tao-chi is
views of nature. Nor is it the an artist of extraordinary interest
collective vision of impassioned both within and without the Chi-
sages with special mist-enshroud- nese .scene. (A possible western
ed insights of mysteries that must parallel might be suggested in
forever remain hidden from lesser such a figure as Cezanne.) Born in
mortals, particularly those whose 161. he lived in an age of tur-
consciousness is trapped in the moil and resettlement that mark-
prison of a "western mind." ed the collapse of the Ming dy-
On the contrary, Chinese artists nasty and the establishment of
were alive in their world as our the alien Ch'ing.
artists are 'alive in ours, and the Much has been made of Tao-
purpose of an exhibition of a chi's allegiance to the fallen Ming
single Chinese painter called, Tao- since he was distantly related to
chi, is to point out that whereas that imperial family. Closer study,
his view is not exactly our view however, indicates that he accept-
(which would indeed be a bore), ed much of Ch'ing rule and seems
he has left in his painting a rec- to have had no difficulty in rever-
ord of experience with which we encing the great Emperor K'ang-
can have sympathy. To quote Tao- hsi who ruled during all of Tao-
chi's own statement on the sub- chi's mature life. Still, there are
ject, ". . flesh and bone compel regrets for vanished Ming glory,

and one of these is found on a
hanging scroll of calligraphy in
this exhibition on which he writes
his feelings upon being presented
with the writing brush of a fornier
Ming emperor.
But the world of a painter is
essentially a world of visual forms,
and the exhibition visitor will
find a rich store of these in over
100 individual paintings.
If one is to try to settle for one
theme that might be thought of
as permeating the entire exhibi-
tion, perhaps it could be defined
as a love of country--not certain-
ly in the modern nationalistic
sense, but as something closer to
a metaphysical point-of-view in
which the great beauties of China's,
mountains and rivers and the cen-
turies of living with them that is
China's civilization are closely

linked to the individual experience
of the artist, Tao-chi.
He travelled extensively, as an
exhibited map clearly shows, and
many of his most beautiful pic-
tures are travel scenes. One of
the greatest of these is the im-
peccably delicate "Eight Views of
Huang-shan" which, in a series
of scenes, tells of a visit to a fa-
mous mountain site in Anhwei.
Another is the tiny intimate
"Small Album," which he did
while visiting a friend near Yang-
chou. Sometimes travel is the
memory of travel as in his famous
monumental hanging scroll on
silk, "The Waterfall at Mt. Lu."
And this in turn is linked to the
poetry of China for on it the
artist writes a poem by the eighth
century T'ang poet, Li Po.
Throughout is great variety and
inventiveness. Tao-chi may see a
mountain as "bending to the
man," or he may see it a rigid un-
yielding rock-like symbol, as in
two leaves from the album, "Rem-
iniscences of Ch 'in-huai." Again,
the whole world may become de-
liberately active, moving and alive,
a continuing powerful outpouring
of form and color that is the
large handscroll, . "A Trip to
Chang-kung's Stalactite Grotto."
Sometimes the theme of flowers
is of major interest. Blossoms may
be calm and quietly beautiful
("Lotus") or they may speak of a
kind of elemental wildness, as in
"Searching for Plum Blossoms."
In still another facet of his work,
Tao-chi's direct debt to Buddhism
is seen in an intricate long hand-
scroll, "The Conversion of Hariti."
Here, then, are a few hints.
Clearly there is much more than
can be stated here, and viewers
may find the rather complete and #
scholarly catalogue a helpful
guide and source of study. But
mostly, for any who wishes to ex-
plore. in the pictures themselves
will be found the reality of the
artist.

-The Art Museum, Princeton University
"SEARCHING FOR PLUM BLOSSOMS" is the subject of this detail of a hand scroll by Chinese
artist Tao-chi.

-Cleveland Museum of Art
"THE MOUNTAIN BENDS TO THE MAN" is a painting by Chinese artist Tao-chi, whose works
are now on display at the Museum of Art.

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