烟壶随笔 | Snuff Bottle Blog
烟壶随笔 | Snuff Bottle Blog
Inside painted snuff bottle traditionally had very limited subjects. The most common themes seen are: Landscape, Still Life, Insects, folklore and portrait.
Wang Xi San wanted to broaden the themes and began to experiment with painting cats, his favor animal. However, with a traditional bamboo pen, the painting tip was too hard for painting fur with soft texture. Wang tried to solve the problem by splitting the tip of bamboo pen into finer nibs, he also tried to tie a few pig bristles on the tip of the bamboo pen, but the effect was not satisfactory.
In the summer of 1959, Wang Xi San seek the advice of Master Yang Shi Hui, an ivory-carving teacher. Master Yang pondered for a moment and said to Wang: “I think I knew of a man that could help you. His name is Cao Ke Jia. He is a knowledgeable art teacher and is best known for painting furry animal, especially cats. “Wang Xi San listened with excitement and begged Master Yang to introduce him to Master Cao Ke Jia.
The next day, Master Yang contacted Master Cao and set up an appointment for Wang Xi San:
“I contacted Mr. Cao. He will be waiting for you at home this coming Sunday.” He then gave Wang a detailed map to Master Cao’s home.
On that Sunday afternoon, the weather changed suddenly and a storm started. Despite the bad weather, Wang Xi San decided to brave the storm for this important appointment.
Master Cao Ke Jia, on the other hand, saw that the thunderstorm was not going to stop and thought that it was impossible for Wang to visit him. He was just going to start on his new painting when suddenly, the doorbell rang. He opened the door and in front of him was young Wang Xi San soaked wet by the heavy downpour.
“My name is Wang Xi San, from the Beijing Institute of Arts and crafts, I am here to see Mr. Cao. ” Wang said respectfully.
“Come in quickly.” Mr. Cao was very pleased to see the determine young artist and warmly said:
Wang Xi San explained the intention of his visit and showed Master Cao his painted bottles with themes of animals with furry hair. Impressed with Wang determination and eagerness to learn, Master Cao immediately took out his notes and shared his technique of painting animals’ fur. Wang Xi San was impressed with the extraordinary skill that Master Cao had, especially his skill of drawing the cats fur and eyes. Master Cao’s cat was almost photo like and captured every detail of the playful animal.
Master Cao’s notes fascinated Wang Xi San. He wanted to borrow it home to study carefully but felt inappropriate to ask. Master Cao understood what was on Wang mind and smiling said: “If you like, you can borrow the notes for a few days.”
“Thank you, Master Cao, your works were fantastic and exactly what I needed. I will borrow your notes and returned them within three days.” The delighted and gratefully Wang said
Master Cao nodded with a smile and bid farewell to Wang Xi San.
Wang Xi San could not believe his luck. He has met a master that could help him with a breakthrough in his painting career.
Three days later, Wang Xi San returned the original notes to Master Cao and brought along his own copy of the note. Master Cao look through Wang work and was very impressed with Wang painting ability and tenacity to learn. He turned around and took a book that he had written on the technique of paint and told Wang Xi San: “I will accept you as a student if you are willing.”
Wang Xi did not expect Master Cao to take him in as a student. He immediately stood up respectfully and bowed to Master Cao. Master Cao was also delighted to have such a talented student and shared whole heartedly his painting techniques to Wang, include the secret of painting the animal fur and eyes.
With what he had learn from Master Cao as the foundation. Wang Xi San developed a new painting technique that could realistically paint the fur of animals like cats and wolves in snuff bottles.
Cao Ke Jia was born on April 1906 in Beijing, alias Ru Xian. He specializes in Chinese painting, particularly detailed painting of cats.
He used to be a teacher of the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts, a cadre of arts and crafts companies under the Ministry of Light Industry and a member of the Chinese Artists Association.
In 1924 Cao Ke Jia graduated from the Shanghai Zhong Hua Vocational School. He also graduated from the National Peking Art Academy school of Chinese painting in 1933. Cao Ke Jia became a professional painter in 1937
Cao learn from many master like Chen Shi Zeng, Wang Meng Bai, Qi Bai Shi, Chen Ban Ding Zhu. He is especially fond of cats, and is most famous for his painting of life like felines. Cao Ke Jia is the author of two books: “how to draw a cat” and “Song porcelain pattern”.
I have published the first 2 series of ZhiYing Collection of Chinese Snuff Bottle 青蘭山房治潁珍藏
– The Duan Stone and the Realgar Series. The collection has the largest imperial made Realgar bottle known. The collection has a unique series of Duan Stone bottles, one of which is made of green colored Duan Stone. Please navigate to 治潁珍藏 and
(by Wang Jin Peng, 王金鹏 – Grandson of Wang Xi San)
Self-portrait, is an expression of an artist’s inner world and his spiritual belief at that point of time. Therefore, one of the best way to understand an artist’s journey is to study his self-portrait.
My grandfather is Mr. Wang Xi San (王习三), he is the founder of the Ji style inside painting. He lives an extraordinary life with many ups and downs. During the 60s, just when he was making progress as a promising young artist, he was repatriated to his hometown and left penniless. Instead of giving up, he led the villagers to prosperity with his initiatives of setting up sideline businesses. However, luck was not with him. His house was raided three times by the red guards, arrested twice and he was tortured almost to death, it was a miracle that Grandpa managed to survive through all the hardship.
After the cultural revolution, life gradually became better. My grandfather was invited to give lectures and graced many international snuff bottles exhibitions. He became well known internationally through his art and lectures. One such occasion is when Mr. Ford, chairman of the International Snuff Bottle Society, announced his appointment as the first honorary member of Asia. This was during the 15th ICSBS meeting in Toronto, Canada in 1983. More than 300 collectors from various countries stood up during the occasions and cheered him on., Holding hands and shouting “Wang Xi San! Wang Xi San! Wang Xi San! Number 1 Number 1.”
Grandpa’s was overwhelmed by the support that was given. To him, the honor given was not just a personal honor, but also a testimony of Chinese traditional culture. From my grandfather’s experience, I realized that it is most important to have self-confidence in our own cultural vitality and creativity. I am also confident that Chinese traditional art and culture will be a shiny star internationally.
Self-portrait is a dialogue between the artist and himself. It also expresses his attitude towards his art, his dedication to life and the society. The three self-portraits that Grandpa made were good representation of these attributes.
Grandpa created his first self-portrait in 1982. In this bottle, he proudly gave an account of the story why he adopted “One Bottle Studio” as his studio name (一壶斋). The studio name came from a banner that was given to him by an old Tian Jin scholar named Gong Wang (龚望). It was a verse taken from a late Han Dynasty article He Guan Zhi (鹖冠子): “When a boat capsized, a gourd bottle that keep you from sinking is worth a thousand teals of Gold” (中河失船，一壶千金). The blank used for this piece of self-portrait was an old glass bottle. The self-portrait, painted in monochrome, show grandfather’s proud moment when he was given the Chinese arts and crafts masters gold medal. This award was a major milestone in his life as it usher in a huge turning point in his career as a snuff bottle artist.
The second self-portrait had many similarities to the first. The only changes were the highlighted lips, the medallions painted with gold powder and his right-hand posture. In this portrait, Grandpa appeared to be more demeanor, relaxed and confident. In his hand, he was showing one of his landscape snuff bottle.
This bottle was a gift to the well-known American businesswoman in Hawaii, Mrs. Su Li Min (苏利民). During grandpa visit to Hawaii in 1983, Mrs Su spend many hours watching his exhibition and demonstration. She brought a collection of his artwork and hosted grandpa in various occasion during his stay in Hawaii. Before returning back to China, my grandfather specially created this self-portrait as a gift to Mrs. Su. That was to thank her for her hospitality and support. He also composed a poem for the bottle: “小中蕴大，壶里乾坤，丹青妙笔，一壶千金””. A universe can be created within this small bottle, using my brush and ink. And it is worth a thousand teals of Gold.
My grandfather met Mr Liang Zhi Xing (梁知行) at the Hong Kong Exhibition and Fair. At that time, Mr Liang was a well-known entrepreneur and the chairman of Hong Kong snuff bottle society. Mr. Liang’s love and dedication to the art of Chinese snuff bottles quickly struck a note with Grandpa and they became the best of friends.
Mr. Liang made frequent trip to China to support the four major schools of inside painting. He collected a vast number of bottles and carefully catalogued them. In 1986, he published his research in a book titled “Snuff bottle new look”. In his book, he introduced the genre and system that he used to classify different schools of painting. Upon its publish, the book was immediately regarded as one of the authoritative book of inside painted snuff bottles. In 1987, Mr Liang teamed up with Mrs. Agathe, a famous American collector, to publish the English version of the book. The book became a important publication to enhanced the international reputation of inside painted snuff bottle.
In 1986, with the help of Mr Liang, Grandpa and his students were able to hold their exhibition at the Hong Kong Arts Center. The event was very successful and well received in Hong Kong.
Mr Liang invited Grandpa to his home many times. On one occasion, Mr Liang’s wife told Grandfather that only a cracked Wang Xi San bottle would cause Mr Liang many sleepless nights (The cracked bottles were due to improper annealing process during manufacturing of the blank). Upon hearing this, Grandpa immediately started work to reproduce and replace the damaged painting with natural crystal bottle for free. Returning the favor, Mr. Liang gave Grandpa three cars in separate occasions. Grandpa, in turn transferred all the cars to the relevant state departments.
Grandpa drew his 3rd self-portrait as a gift to Mr Liang, using a rock crystal bottle. He composed 2 poems specifically for this bottle. The first poem was titled “Best of Friend” (知音). In which, he wrote: “The hooked brush can paint a universe within the small bottle. After thirty years of painting, I have found my best friend Mr. Liang”. (方寸烟壶内，勾笔绘乾坤。丹青三十载，知音数梁君). The second poem is titled “My Wish” (心愿). In this poem, Grandfather wrote: “For half a century, I have worked hard to perfect my painting skill. My wish is to see that the art of inside painted snuff bottle flourishes in the hands of my students” (蹉跎度半世，只求技艺真。呕血育新秀, 唯愿玉壶春)
Grandpa believe that the purpose of art is to awaken and enlighten the spiritual needs of people through its beauty. It should also help a person in his relentless pursuit of truth, goodness and beauty. With these belief, he has created an everlasting and legendary story for himself and the art he so loves !
Wang Xi San was elected into the Seventh CPPCC National Committee member in 1988. With his new appointment, Wang began to pay attention to some social issues. He had noticed that some undesirable phenomena is appearing in the society. Fakes, widespread cheating and infringement of intellectual properties are affecting the social norms and orders.
Wang Xi San has spent many years of commitment and continuous improvement to nourish his studio name. To him, the “One Bottle Studio” was his reputation and he cherished it dearly. Wang is a responsible teacher that hope to help his students succeed as early as possible. To ensure quality work, his apprentices needed to passed a set of rigorous tests before they can use his studio name.
In April 1984, to prevent counterfeiting problems. Wang decided to register his studio name as a trade mark. During that time, he knew nothing about the trademark laws and regulations. In that application, Wang registered the studio name under the state-owned factory instead of his personal name. This mistake left an impetus for a legal battle for his studio name later in the years.
To research into more techniques of painting, Wang started the Heng Shui Wang Xi San Art Institute in 1988. Before long, the works coming out of Wang’s art institute received many positive response from foreign collectors. However, with the increased demand of his bottle, a dishonest market began to emerge. Many low-grade paintings signed off as “One Bottle Studio” began to appear in the market. Desperate to protect his studio name, Wang hoped that the management of the state-owned factory would transfer the ownership of his studio name to him. The management of the factory refused to give in and insisted that the studio name belongs to them.
With no option left, Wang had to change his studio name again. He adopted a modified version of this original studio name “One Bottle with Eight Virtues Studio” (一壶八德斋). The eight virtues that Wang added are the eight principles of life that he felt essential: filial piety, loyalty, faith, courtesy, righteousness, honesty and integrity. These are the same moral values that Wang emphasizes to his children and students.
The Chinese society has gradually improved in laws and regulations over the years. Art and culture became one of the main focus of development. This attention improved the protection of intellectual property by the authorities. All these positive changes has given artist and artisans a stable and peaceful social environment to practice their trade.
Another piece of great news came in October 18, 2011. During the 6th Session of the 17th CPC Central Committee meeting. The governing party passed an important initiative to support and rejuvenate Chinese art and culture. This initiative was to fund artists that are engaged in traditional arts like Wang Xi San.
With all the years of hard work and innovation, Wang has built a solid foundation for the future. He has made inside painted snuff bottle into an art that is internationally acclaimed. From his stories, one can learn about the development of inside painted snuff bottle in conjunction with the changes in the social. Wang is confident that the golden age of inside painted snuff bottles has just started.
In 1968, Wang had established his painting business in Yang Zhuang. However, Wang realized that it was impossible to for him to save the village from poverty. To reverse the situation, he would need to involvement all able men, women and children to help.
Wang decided to travel to Tian Jing to persuade factories owner to start-up in the village. He managed to convince a gelatin. a pin factory and some oil mills to set up businesses. With these, the manpower in the village was fully utilized. This brought rapid economic development to the village.
With the extra cash, villagers could improve infrastructure for irrigation and electricity.The could also purchased fertilizers and better farming equipment. These developments increased the financial status of the village. For the first time, the village leaders could distribute cash to the peasants.
Wang felt the sense of fulfillment when he saw tears rolling down the faces of poor farmers. Because of his contributions, Wang became a highly respected person. The village leaders gave him more freedom and time on his own. Wang took this chance to do research on various new techniques of painting and developed the modern brush for inside painting.
An old Tian Jin scholar named Gong Wang (龚望) heard about Wang successes in helping the poor. As an encouragement, he invited the famous calligrapher Yu Ming-shan (余明善) to write a banner for him on a piece of Song dynasty rice paper that he had kept for many years.
He selected a verse taken from a late Han Dynasty article He Guan Zhi (鹖冠子) as the encouragement verse for Wang: “When a boat capsized, a gourd bottle that keep you afloat is worth a thousand taels of Gold” (中河失船，一壶千金). In his opinion, he felt that when the time is right, Wang’s painted bottles will also be worth a thousand taels of Gold.
Wang Xi San took this verse as his lifetime motto. Subsequently, he changes his studio name to “One Bottle studio” (一壶斋) as a constant reminder to work hard and strive for the best.
Luck ran out very fast for Wang Xi San. A new initiative by the communist party to uproot capitalization swept over the nation in 1970. The new village leaders was not pleased with Wang Xi San because of the side businesses that he had brought in. Because of that, Yang Zhuang village was declared as “counter-revolutionary” and Wang was named as a traitor of the communist party. For eight months, Wang suffered all kinds of personality and physical tortures and he tried to commit suicide twice. During that horrifying period, the villagers were very sympathetic to him. However, they were powerless against the authorities. The only thing that they could do is to encourage him to live on.
No evidences can be found and Wang cannot be convicted. In the meantime, since all businesses were put on hold, the village became poor again. This brought a lot of unhappiness between the new leadership team and the villagers and they were withdrawn soon after. This saved Wang Xi San and the villagers immediately restarted the factories and Wang painting studio.
Wang XiSan had only left Beijing once and that was when he was 11 years old. At that year, Wang XiSan visited his uncle in the village and stayed there for ten days. Lice laced his clothes at the end of the trip. His mother needed to use boiling water to kill the lice before the clothes can be wore again.
Newspapers and radio constantly exposed Wang to propaganda in the city. All he heard about was the greatness of a socialism society. However, during the cultural revolution, the true picture shocked him when he was deported to his home town. Life was not even as good as it used to be. At that time, there was a saying in the village that “The buttocks of the hen is their only bank” (using eggs to exchange for living necessities). Food and basic necessity were limited. Villagers will need to take a loan before they can afford for anything extra.
Many young people were deployed to the rural area in 1967. This was to fulfill the initiative of Chairman Mao’s “Fifty-seven Instructions”. “Agriculture, and farmers must be the most important economic pillar of the society. But due to poor management, a shortage of water and fertilizer, most of the land had terrible harvest. Most farmers were poor and can barely sustain their livelihood.
Seeing the suffering of the farmers, Wang XiSan wonder if he could create a sideline business – by selling inside painted snuff bottle. The extra cash generated could help the needy farmers. Wang XiSan made a proposal to the leaders of the village revolutionary committee. However, they had never heard or seen an inside painted snuff bottle. Fortunately, Wang had carried along three blanks that was brought from the Red Guards in Beijing. After seeing his painting skill, the village leaders reluctantly allowed Wang to sell his painting through the Tianjing’s foreign trade. Wang also promised to pay for all the expenses.
Wang XiSan succeeded in linking up with the Tianjin Arts & Crafts Import and Export Company. His business took off and his earning could subsidized the expenses of the village. The new opportunities delighted the villagers. The best available meeting room in the village was converted to Wang studio. Bright glass windows replaces the old wooden lattice windows.
In 1968, he formally reopened his studio in the rural areas of Hebei Province. Wang named his studio “Semi-farming Studio” (半农斋). This is because he still need to delicate half of his time to farming as per the directive of Chairman Mao.
Wang was not lucky. In the winter of 1970, a political campaign aimed at cracking down on counter-revolutionary started. The communist party accused Wang of planning to seize power from the party and closed his studio.
An artist will usually have a studio name, also known as the studio title to represent himself. This name is often used in conjunction with the artist signature when signing off on a piece of artwork. The studio name of famous Chinese ink brush painter Zhang DaQian (张大千) was called “DaFeng Tang” (大风堂). While as, the famous inside snuff bottle painter, Master Zhou LeYuan (周乐元) was called “OuXiang Zhai” (藕香斋). Studio name is usually a reflection of the artistic style and moral sentiments of the artist. It can also represent the artist’s working environment and situation at that point of time.
An artist is an integral part of the society that he lives in. He is inevitably affected by the community and its events. Other than their individual talent and hard work, the society and the events of the time forms the next key factor of the success for an artist. It is therefore interesting to study an artist’s studio name at different stage of his career. This will give you a glimpse of what was happening to the artist through the years and therefore his painting style at that point of time.
Master Wang XiSan (王习三) changes his studio name multiple times throughout his painting career. Wang RuiCheng (王瑞成), or better known as Wang XiSan (王习三), was born in Beijing in 1938 (then called Peking). In 1958, he was fortunate to be selected as an apprentice of Master Ye XiaoFeng and Master Ye BengQi, sons of legendary inside snuff bottle painter Ye ZhongSan. Wang XiSan’s early work in the Beijing’s art school as an apprentice was signed off as devoted to the “capital” or “DuMen”. Later, when he became an established painter, he included his studio name as part of his artwork. Master Wang was to change the name of his studio four times throughout his career.
Wang XiSan was recuited into the Beijing Institute of Arts and crafts, where Beijing’s top arts and crafts talents of that time were brought together. Some of the top artisans at that time were people such as Pan BingHeng (潘秉衡), the best jade carver. Yang Shih-hui (杨士惠) and Yang Shih-chung (杨士忠), who specializes in ivory carving. Bi ShangBing (毕尚宾), Zhai DeShou (翟德寿) and Zhang GuangHe (张广和) in embellishing, Chen ZhiGuang (陈智光) in porcelain engraving art. Lang ShaoAn – the noodle man (郎绍安) in the dough carving, Xia WenFu (夏文富) in the velvet bird embroidery. Gao CongLi (高从理) in the wood carving. Lu JingDa (路景达), the shadow opera master and many more.
The Institute had a library full of books on Chinese art and craft together with a metal workshop for apprentices to learn useful machining skill. At that time, the Beijing Institute of Arts and Crafts was the best learning environment for a young art-beginner. An apprentice there not only had the chance to see the superb works of art every day, but also learn from established artisans from all trades. The valuable experiences in the institute had a far-reaching influence on Master Wang’s career and professionalism as an inside painted snuff bottle artist later.
In 1961 Institute of Arts and crafts moved to a village named Taibei Zhuang (太平庄). TaiPing Zhuang in Chinese literally means “Peaceful Village” and that was exactly what Master Wang hoped to be; A peaceful place for him to perfect his mastery in inside painting. Mater Wang used to sign off his art pieces as “Wang Xisan, made in the capital”, from then, he adopts his first studio name and sign off on his bottle as “Wang Xisan, Painted in TaiPing Zhuang.”
Unfortunately for Master Wang, Taiping Zhuang did not remain peaceful for him. Wang XiSan was identified as “anti-revolution” at the very beginning of the Cultural Revolution in 1966. He was deported to the rural area in HeBei Provence (河北省) in FuCheng (阜城) County to undergo reform. The dream of ” TaiPing Zhuang “quickly vanished into thin air.
I have made a video on Master Zhang Yong inside painted snuff bottle
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Recently, that’s an afternoon I spend with J.R. and his friend Prisca. They are holidaying in Singapore and decided to meet up to see my snuff bottles. Snuff bottles are a microcosm of all the arts of China, its jewel-like quality: small, beautiful, intricate and ease to handle makes them a unique artifact that you can hold in your palm to enjoy and appreciate.
For the meeting, I brought along master pieces from Ye ZhongSan, Wang XiSan, Chen RunPu, ZhangYong and Lee RuChen. We lined up the bottles according to the year that they are painted and admired the progression of different painting techniques, from bamboo tip brush to modern painting tools, used by masters of different era. It was definitely a feast for the eyes !
Prisca is a creative ceramic artist from Indonesia and she shared a couple of her beautiful creation with different modern glazing and firing methods and techniques.
At the end of the day, we enjoy ourselves talking over art and our collections of snuff bottles. J.R. also walk away happily with some great snuff bottles at an unbeatable price………
J.R. Hope that you will always enjoy those beautiful bottles that you brought home! THANKS for the Afternoon!
It was a pleasure to meet you and spending time together regarding the snuff bottles. Your collection you shared was very nice indeed!
I look forward to getting the narrative for each bottle, when you get an opportunity. It was an unexpected surprise to get the calligraphy bottle! I forgot to ask what style of script it was?
I’m truly thrilled with all the bottles! Additionally, thank you for the presentation boards and individual boxes.
The opportunity to design and paint a set of inner painted bottles on Master Hong Yi life strories 弘一大师 came from a bottle that I had sold previously, a bottle that depicted the sorrowness of Tang Dynasty last emperor, Emperor Li Yi, after he has lost the country. Initially, I was nervous about the assignment, this is because I have little knowledge on Master Hong Yi. The only thing that I know about Master Hong Yi is his famous tune: farewell (送别) and a well-known photography of him that show his melancholy and yet benevolent smile.
I took great effort and time to prepare myself for the assignment. I repeatedly watched and studied all the movies, books and articles that I could find on Master Hong Yi. It took me more than 6 months of preparation before I feel that I have gathered and understand enough of the Master life journey to start designing and painting the bottles. Master Hong Yi life was filled with extraordinary experiences: His early days are characterized by his talents in many artistic area like music, western oil painting, theatre and drama, Chinese calligraphy and seal carving. Yet, when Master Hong Yi decided to become a monk and practice Buddhism, he became one of the most respected abbot that had brought Buddhism to another height in his era. The only artistic pursue that Master Hong Yi never let go even when he became a monk is his love of calligraphy. Master Hong Yi’s calligraphy is always recognized as one of the best in Chinese history because of the simplicity and calmness that it portray. Looking at his calligraphic work, the audiences can experience the Zen, simplicity, peaceful yet powerful inner strength of Master Hong Yi achieved through Buddhism.
For the first painting for Master Hong Yi’s life, I drew inspiration from the Diamond Sutra characteristic verse: 如梦如幻, meaning life is an illusion and revelry. The Diamond Sutra is Master Hong Yi’s most familiar sutra since young. As a child, Master Hong Yi has already had the ability to decipher the teaching of Buddha much more profoundly compared to most people. Through his life journey on calligraphy, Master Hong Yi has always include this four words, 如梦如幻, as part of his work. I believed that the Master must had a more profound understanding of these phrase and words compared to a normal person like me…… as I tried to understand the true meaning of these words with my limited knowledge on the Sutra as a commoner.
For the second side of the first bottle, I choose the handsome and multi-talented image of Li ShuTong as the subject. Li ShuTong is the name of Master HongYi before he became a monk. At his teen, Li ShuTong was already a well-known name in poetry, calligraphy and seal carving. Li ShuTong is also a member of the 5 talented friends who called themselves the “Friends of the Worlds’ End”. They performed in numerous Chinese opera and the drama houses in various theatre in ShangHai. Li Shutong talent and interest in art is the driving force for him to further his studies in Japan. Upon his return to China, he became the first person to include nude painting classes in schools and colleges in China. He is also instrumental in introducing western classical music, drama and plays into China.
The next bottle started with the love story of Li ShuTong when he was studying in Japan. I thought that his romance with the Japanese lady that eventually became his wife is a chapter that cannot be ignored in his eventful life. One the other side of the bottle, I draw Li ShuTong with his piano and a backdrop of a class of Chinese students painting with a male nude model. Li ShuTong was instrumental in introducing Western music and Art into China. He is the first to start nude painting as an art class curriculum in famous college and school in HangZhou and Nanking. Although using only male nude model, the act of painting nude in China at that time became a sensation in the art circle in the country. Li ShuTong tutored a few famous artist and musician of that era, the most famous being the cartoonist Feng ZhiKai and musician Liu ZePing. The famous cartoon series 护生画集, was initially a series of drawing by Feng ZhiKai and short novel by then Master HongYi. After Master HongYi deceased, Feng ZhiKai remain committed to carry on drawing and writing as a memoir for his teacher. The final collection was a compilation of 46 years of work from Feng and Master Hong Yi 弘一大师 and is published into 7 books. HuSengHua Zi became an important and representative book that descript the Chinese society in the early to mid of 1990s through Feng’s cartoon drawing and Zen, Buddhism teaching through Master Hong Yi 弘一大师 novel.
The Third bottle started with the scene of Li ShuTong deciding to put everything he had achieved behind to go into monkhood. I painted these page in a dreary mood and showing his crying Japanese wife at the backdrop when she found him in the monastery in HangZhou. Li’s wife begged him to go home with her and when all her effort seems fruitless, she asked him the last question…… “What is Love?”Li ShuTong answered her that “Love is benevolence.” With that said, Li ShuTong never turn back and became Master Hong Yi 弘一大师. He whole heartedly put all his effort into the study and research of the most difficult and strictest sect and teaching of Buddhism. Master Hong Yi 弘一大师 travelled around the country to teach in various monastery and became one of the four most famous monk in the Republican time.
The most familiar and famous portrait of Master Hong Yi 弘一大师 must definitely be represented in this series of bottle. This page is also titled 悲欣交集 (a labyrinth of gladness and melancholies), which is the last four word that is written by the Master before he passed away peacefully in the monastery. Lastly, I used Li ShuTong most famous song and verse 送别 (farewell) as the theme of the last painting of this series of bottles. The lyric and the painting of two parting friends under the setting sun gave me a fulfilling ending to the different types of emotion and feeling as I walked through this experiences of creating this series of bottle. The titles of all the painting are also carefully selected from various words and phrases that was used by Li ShuTong or Master Hong Yi 弘一大师 through his lifetime. I am sure that for those people that are familiar with the life of Master Hong Yi 弘一大师, these simple verse will bring back meaningful, happy and fulfilling memories of him.
I know that my effort will never be adequate to represent even one tenth of Master Hong Yi 弘一大师 life time achievement. But I am grateful that I am given this opportunity to embark onto researching, studying, designing and finally painting this series of bottles on Master Hong Yi 弘一大师 life stories. The experience has undoubtedly help myself to learn and better my own artistic level and gradation. It’s a humbling, fulfilling and beneficial journey.
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