Autumn Colors on the Ch'iao and Hua Mountains

Tags: National Palace Museum | painting | Yuan dynasty


Chao Meng-fu (1254-1322), Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Handscroll, ink and color on paper, 28.4 x 90.2 cm 
Although Chao Meng-fu descended from the Sung imperial family, he served the following Yüan dynasty as a prominent official in the Hanlin Academy. He was also one of the most influential painters and calligraphers of his day, and his style had a great impact on generations to come. Chao Meng-fu's inscription on this handscroll reads, "The father of Chou Mi was a native of Ch'i-chou. After retiring from office in Ch'i-chou and on my way home, I visited the scenery of the area to describe it for Chou Mi. Mt. Hua-pu-chu is known as the most famous mountain in the area, having been known from antiquity and unique for its sharp peak. Therefore, I did this painting of it. To the east is Mt. Ch'iao, so I gave this work the title 'Autumn Colors on the Ch'iao and Hua Mountains.' Done by Chao Meng-fu of Wu-hsing in the twelfth lunar month of the first year of the Chen-yüan era in the Yüan [i.e., 1295]." The inscription indicates that the painting was done by Chao at the age of 41 for his close friend Chou Mi. Chou Mi's ancestral hometown was in the Chi-nan region of Shantung, which Chao had visited. Chou, however, lived his entire life in the south and could not return to his hometown. Since Chao Meng-fu served as a magistrate in the Shantung region, he took the opportunity upon leaving office to go first to Chou's hometown before returning home. After he arrived home, Chao painted the unique scenery of Hua-pu-chu Mountain and Ch'iao Mountain from memory. These two mountains are shown in the painting as not very far apart, but they are actually many kilometers apart. Despite taking artistic license with the distance, Chao has accurately conveyed the most important and salient features of these two mountains. The hills and shoals are done in Tung Yüan hemp-fiber strokes and the coloring is archaic blue-and-green for a revivalist manner. The texture strokes, however, are calligraphic, reflecting Chao's own innovation. The work brims with clarity, ease, and calm. Reality, memory, tradition, and creativity merge to form a new style that evokes the imagery of mind and heart. Thus, this painting was done in an intentionally naive and archaistic manner in which Chao sought to convey the scenery in terms of a classical elegance, and he successfully conveyed the heritage and beauty of the region.

Text and images are provided by National Palace Museum