Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wang Yüan-ch'i

WANG Yüan-ch'i 王原祁 (T. 茂京, H. 麓臺, 石師道人), Sept. 9 or 11, 1642–1715, Nov. 7, landscape painter and official, came from a distinguished family in the district of T'ai-ts'ang, Kiangsu. His grandfather, Wang Shih-min [q. v.], was a celebrated painter of the early Ch'ing period. His father, Wang K'uei 王揆 (T. 端士, H. 芝廛, d. age 71 sui), was a chin-shih of 1655, but never accepted governmental appointment. As a youth Wang Yüan-ch'i was greatly influenced by his grandfather who instructed him in the theory and technique of painting. To students of Chinese painting Wang Shih-min, Wang Yüan-ch'i, Wang Chien and Wang Hui [qq. v.] are known as the Four Wangs (四王). Wang Yüan-ch'i is said to have taken as his model the Yüan painter, Huang Kung-wang (see under Tung Ch'i-ch'ang). He became a chin-shih in the same year (1670) as his uncle, Wang Shan [q. v.]—receiving appointment to a minor post in the Board of Civil Office. In 1681 he was made assistant examiner at the Shun-t'ien provincial examination, and later in the same year was appointed magistrate of Jên-hsien, Chihli, a post he held for four years. During his magistracy he showed such ability in handling law-suits that a number of important cases in southern Chihli were assigned to him by Wei Hsiang-shu [q. v.], then president of the Board of Punishments. Later he was called to the capital and was made a censor. In 1700 he was appointed junior, then senior, secretary in the Supervisorate of Imperial Instruction, thus becoming belatedly a member of the Hanlin Academy. Later he was made expositor, reader, and finally chancellor of the Hanlin Academy. In 1712 he was appointed senior vice-president of the Board of Finance, a post he held until his death in 1715.

So highly was Wang Yuan-ch'i regarded as an artist that he was often summoned to paint in the Imperial Palace. On November 24, 1705 he and four other official—Sun Yüeh-pan 孫岳頒 (T. 雲詔, H. 樹峯, 1639–1708, chin-shih of 1682), Sung Chün-yeh 宋駿業 (T. 聲求, H. 堅齋, fu-pang of 1685, d. age 52 sui), Wu Ching (see under Wu Wei-yeh), and Wang Ch'üan 王銓 (T. 東發, H. 耳谿, chü-jên of 1690)—were ordered to compile a comprehensive work on calligraphy and painting which was published in 1708 under the title 佩文齋書畫譜 P 'ei-wên chai shu-hua p'u, 100 chüan, with a preface by the Emperor bearing the same date. Eighteen chüan of this work are devoted to theories of calligraphy and painting, forty to biographies of calligraphers and painters, eight to anonymous painting and calligraphy, twenty-one to annotations and comments, three to critical appraisals, and ten to well-known collections. The com- pilers are reported to have consulted 1,844 different sources.

Wang Yüan-ch'i is also well known as one of the painters of a long, commemorative scroll, known as the 萬壽長圖 Wan-shou ch'ang-t'u or Wan-shou t'u. It depicts the scenes attendant on the celebration of Emperor Shêng-tsu's sixtieth birthday (which, according to the Western calendar, fell on April 12, 1713) when a procession went from the garden, Ch'ang-ch'un yüan (see under Hsüan-yeh), northwest of Peking, to the Forbidden City, a distance of some six miles. As originally designed by Sung Chün-yeh, it portrayed some fifty scenes in the celebration. It was presented to the Emperor before completion. On May 26, 1713 Wang was directed to supervise the completion, the draft on paper being finished February 10, 1714. In a memorial submitted to the Emperor on the 21st of that month Wang asked that a final copy be executed on silk, of which he requested a supply of three hundred feet (Chinese). In the same memorial he also recommended the compilation of a work containing eulogistic writings, honoring the Emperor on this occasion. Consequently he was made director of a specially-created bureau, Wan-shou shu-hua chü (書畫局) for the preparation of materials in celebration of the Emperor's birthday; and a number of officials were appointed to help him. Before the work was completed he died, and his cousin, Wang I-ch'ing (see under Wang Shan), succeeded him as director of the bureau. The work was finally completed early in 1716 and was printed during the years 1716–17 under the title, 萬壽盛典初集 Wan-shou shêng-tien ch'u-chi, 120 chüan. The above-mentioned scroll, Wan-shou t'u, appears in this work as chüan 41 (with 73 woodcuts) and chüan 42 (with 75 woodcuts). When these 148 woodcuts, each 10 3/4 by 13 1/2 inches, are placed end to end in scroll form, such a scroll is approximately 166 feet long. The preparation of the woodcuts was supervised by Wang Yüan-ch'i and Wang I-ch'ing. The printing of the work was financed by the two brothers, Chao Hung-ts'an and Chao Hung-hsieh, and by a son of the former, named Chao Chih-yüan (for all see under Chao Liang-tung).

Wang Yüan-ch'i was the author of two small works, entitled: 雨窗漫筆 Yü-ch'uang man-pi, 1 chüan, which lays down ten rules for painting; and 麓臺題畫稿 Lu-t'ai t'i-hua kao, 1 chüan, a collection of his colophons. Both works appear in various collectanea. The seals most often seen on his paintings read: 蒼潤, 筆端金鋼杵, and 畫圖留與人看—the last being one conferred on him by the Emperor.

Wang Yüan-ch'i had three sons; the eldest, Wang Mu 王暮 (T. 孝徵, chin-shih of 1706, 1669–1754), served as governor of Kwangtung during the years 1737–40. A number of Wang Yüan-ch'i's descendants achieved fame as painters and officials, but the most distinguished was his great-grandson, Wang Ch'ên 王宸 (T. 紫[子]凝, H. 蓬心, 瀟湘翁, 老蓬仙, 柳東居士, 退官衲子, 玉虎山樵, 1720–1797, chü-jên of 1760), who was a poet as well as an artist. He compiled biographical sketches of Chinese painters, under the title 繪林伐材 Hui-lin fa-ts'ai, 10 chüan, the author's preface being dated 1780.

Wang Yüan-ch'i had a number of disciples who also achieved distinction as painters, among them: Huang Ting 黃鼎 (T. 尊[遵]古, H. 曠亭, 獨往客, 淨垢老人, 1660–1730); T'ang-tai 唐岱 (T. 毓東, H. 靜巖, 默莊); Wên I 温儀 (T. 可象, H. 紀堂, chin-shih of 1713); Wang Ching-ming 王敬銘 (T. 丹思, H. 味閒, 未巖, chin-shih of 1713, d. age 54 sui); and Wang Yü 王昱 (T. 日初, H. 東莊老人, 雲槎山人, 龍道人).


[1/509/1b; 3/56/92; 4/20/29a; 19/2 shang 12b; 20/1/00; 26/1/17b; 27/5/2a; T'ai-ts'ang chou-chih (1919) 10/33a, 20/13b; L.T.C.L.H.M. 36a–39b; Ferguson, John C., Chinese Painting (1927) p. 174.]

J. C. Yang