As were preserved far after his death. Dong Qichang’s

As a painter, Dong Qichang favored
expressionism over realism and tried to avoid anything sentimental. In addition
to his calligraphy work, he primarily painted intentionally distorted
landscapes. His style primarily consists of constructs, made of awkward shapes,
floating in air or disconnected from each other. Dong’s brushwork was often varied
and complex; he also seems to have favored ink over the use of colors. Although
he tried to avoid realism, his paintings are far from abstract, as Dong used many
elements from the Yuan artists that came before him. Dong Qichang’s art, along
with his Southern School philosophy, redefined Chinese landscape painting and helped
dictate how it would be defined for in the future. Soon after his death, the
Manchurians took over China, but continued the intellectual trends of the Ming
Dynasty. Despite his political notoriety, Dong Qichang’s art philosophies
became a national standard that were preserved far after his death.

Dong Qichang’s ideas also applied the
vocabulary commonly used in Chan Buddhism. The Northern school of Chan
practices gradual cultivation or jian, a process that requires long periods of
chanting, abstinence, and observance. In contrast, the Southern School of Chan
advocates sudden enlightenment or dun, emphasizing meditation and
self-cultivation. Dong saw the Southern School as superior and applied its
concepts to painting. Dong believed that using self-expression to paint with
the heart and feeling was superior to the professional artist’s method, which
attempts exact replication. In fact, he viewed professional artists as slaves
to nature. Dong Qichang used his similarities with Chan Buddhism to help spread
his concept of Southern School painting. Art development in his Southern school
had two stages. The first stage entails mastery of all the styles of the
previous masters, which would lead to a dacheng or sudden enlightenment.
Successfully reaching the requirements of the first stage, Dong believed an
artist’s own innovations would lead to the second stage, manifesting a style
unique to that artist. Wang Hui is thought to be Dong’s only immediate follower
to successfully surpass his masters.

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Influenced by Chan Buddhism, Dong
Qichang applied the idea of lineage as a basic principle in his art philosophy
and created his own line of patriarchs in a similar manner. His lineage of
painters starts with Wang Wei of the Tang Dynasty, followed by Zhang Zao, Jing
Hao, Guan Tong, Guo Zhhongshu, Dong Yuan, Mi Fu, and Mi Youren. His lineage
then includes the Yuan painting masters, Huang Gongwang, Ni Zan, Wu Zhen, and
Wang Meng. Shen Zhou and Wen Zhengming are at the end of his lineage. Each of
these painters took on the principles of those that came before and transformed
them, producing original work that served to inspire future artists.

Dong Qichang’s government positions
were not without controversy. In fact, his short retirement in 1605 was brought
on when candidates demonstrated against him during an exam. Dong was also known
to both verbally and physically abuse women who came to complain at his home, which
was eventually burned down by an angry mob. He also had stressed relations with
the eunuchs common in government positions. In 1622, Dong Qichang’s former
student, and now emperor, hired him to assemble a history of the Ming Dynasty. However,
more political upsets would once again force him into retirement. In 1631, he,
again, returned to Peking to serve as the prince’s tutor, until his final
retirement in 1634. Dong Qichang primarily spent this time focusing on painting,
until his death in 1636. Sometime between 1966 and 1976, during the Chinese
Cultural Revolution, Dong Qichang’s notoriety led to the Red Guards vandalizing
his tomb and desecrating his corpse.

Dong Qichang was a Chinese
landscape painter, calligrapher, and politician who lived during the Ming
Dynasty. In 1555, Dong was born to a poor family in Huating, now known as Shanghai,
China. However, Dong was raised in Songjiang and, at an early age, became
interested in the artwork of painters and calligraphers. He passed the Prefectural
Civil Service Exam at the age of twelve, allowing him to attend the Prefectural
Government School. By the age of seventeen, he passed the Imperial Civil
Service Exam. However, despite his knowledge, his sloppy calligraphy skills caused
him to place in second. Described by some as a perfectionist, he would spend
the next few years practicing his calligraphy, eventually becoming famous for it.
By 1589, Dong passed the Metropolitan Exam with honors and, at the age of
thirty-five, became a high-ranking government official well recognized for his
calligraphy in the grass and running hand styles. In 1590, Dong Qichang
traveled to Peking, now known as Beijing, China. There, he served at the
Imperial Academy as a tutor for Prince Zhu Changluo, who would later become
known as the Taichang Emperor. Dong Qichang would go into a short retirement
from 1605 to 1622.

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