Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Yün Shou-p'ing

YÜN Shou-p'ing 惲壽平 (T. 正叔, H. 東園草衣生, 白雲外史, 園容, 壽平子), 1633–1690, poet and artist, was a native of Yang-hu, Kiangsu. His original name was Yün Ko 惲格 (T. 壽平), but he was commonly known by one of his hao as Yün Nan-t'ien (南田). His great-grandfather, Yün Shao-fang 惲紹芳 (T. 光世, H. 少南), was a chin-shih of 1547 who served as an assistant financial commissioner of Fukien. His father, Yün Jih-ch'u 惲日初 (T. 仲升, H. 遜庵, 1601–1678), was one of the patriots who helped to resist the Manchu advances in Fukien and Kwangtung. When Canton fell, in 1647, Yün Jih-ch'u became a Buddhist priest under the name Ming-t'an 明曇, going in that year to Chien-ning, Fukien, to join the Ming loyalists under Chu I-hai [q. v.]. There he took his two sons and perhaps also other nembers of his family. In 1648 Chien-ning fell to the Manchu troops under Generals Ch'ên Chin (see under Chang Ming-ch'ên) and Li Shuai-t'ai [q. v.], and in the conflict many inhabitants of the city lost their lives. Yün escaped with his life and later returned alone to his home in Yang-hu, believing that both of his sons had died. In reality only the older one was killed; the younger, Yün Shou-p'ing, then only fifteen, was taken by Ch'ên Chin and was adopted by the latter's wife. One day when Yün Jih-ch'u was visiting a monastery on West Lake, Hangchow he recognized his son in the company of Ch'ên's wife who happened to be visiting the monastery too. As Ch'ên was then governor-general of Chekiang and Fukien, Yün did not dare to appeal directly to the Governor's wife for the return of his son, and so plotted with the abbot of the monastery to recover the boy by some other means. The abbot persuaded the foster mother into believing that her adopted son would die young if he were not forthwith tonsured as a monk. Left thus in the monastery, Yün Shou-p'ing was then claimed by his own father and taken back to Yang-hu.

Since his father was an ardent Ming loyalist, Yün Shou-p'ing would not serve as an official under the Ch'ing regime. He spent his time learning how to write poems and how to paint: and, by selling the products of his art, managed to support himself and his father. He was an intimate friend of the famous landscape painter, Wang Hui [q. v.]. It is reported that, like Wang, he too painted landscapes, but that after examining Wang's works he concluded that he could not gain supremacy in that field. He thereupon specialized in the painting of flowers and insects—particularly in the style known as mo-ku fa 沒骨法, the "boneless" technique in which the artist works independently of a framework or skeleton. In this field he had no equal among his contemporaries. Occasionally, however, he painted landscapes, and in this field he is ranked as one of the "Six Masters" (Liu-chia) of his day—the other five being Wang Hui, Wang Shih-min, Wang Chien, Wang Yüan-ch'i and Wu Li [qq. v.]. He was a famous writer of colophons on paintings in both prose and verse, and an eminent calligrapher. Hence a painting by him, bearing a colophon written in his own hand, came to be known as Nan-t'ien san-chüeh (三絕). because it shows him "Excellent in Three Respects"—in painting, in calligraphy, and in composition. Emperor Kao-tsung had in his collection many examples of Yün's work, including an album of ten landscape paintings once owned by An Ch'i [q. v.]. The Emperor himself wrote the introduction to the album which is reproduced in the Palace Museum Weekly, Ku-kung chou-k'an (see under Yü Chih-ting). A number of Yün's paintings, some on fans, were reproduced in the same publication.

At no time well-to-do, Yün Shou-p'ing did not leave enough means, after his death, for decent burial. The expenses of these last rites were met by his friend, Wang Hui. It can be said, however, that he led an interesting life; he had many friends among men of letters who, though all poor, spent many pleasant hours writing verse or visiting scenic spots in the Soochow-Hangchow-Yangchow area. His poems were first printed under the title, Nan-t'ien shih-ch'ao (詩鈔), in 5 chüan, in 1716 as part of the collectanea, 毘陵六逸集 P'i-ling liu-i chi. In 1838 Chiang Kuang-hsü [q. v.] collected more of Yün's poems and edited them, together with his colophons, into a work of 12 chüan. This collection was printed in 1844, under the title 甌香館集 Ou-hsiang kuan-chi, with supplement in one chüan.

A daughter of Yün Shou-p'ing, named Yün Ping 惲冰 (T. 清於, H. 蘭陵女史), was, like her father, an artist. Another lady of the Yün family, named Yün Chu (see under Lin-ch'ing), was a celebrated poetess.

Among the painters in the Ch'ing period who, like Yün, excelled in the painting of flowers and insects may be mentioned Chiang T'ing-hsi, Chang Chao [qq. v.], and Tsou I-kuei (see under Ku Tung-kao).


[1/509/4a; 3/426/50a; 26/7b; 20/1/00; Ou-hsiang kuan chi; Waley, Arthur, An Index to Chinese Artists (1922), p. 111; Ku-kung chou-k'an (nos. 127–41, 236, passim); L.T.C.L.H.M., p. 317b; Ferguson, J. C., Chinese Painting, p. 161.]

Fang Chao-ying