“I once examined thoroughly those areas in ancient paintings not managed in accord with the conception, thinking them a function of the movement of the wrist (so that) when seizing the brush it became one of the areas in paintings by the ancients that were not managed in accord with the conception. But there are not two standards, and the areas in paintings of the ancients that were not managed in accord with the conception were exactly the areas managed in accord with the conception. I could not attain the managing of conceptions within the not managing of conceptions, so whenever I was stopped by irresolution for several days, I was unable to personally understand it. And if I do get something, I fear that it is merely the dregs of the wine, what those who know the ancients would ridicule. Thus do I take care with composition, widely accumulating images so as to assist my conceptions.
Today, in doing this album, I did not dare to change in the slightest the ancient models, and the meaning of managing the conception and of not managing the conception, allowing my wrist to suddenly lose (control) and without thought, complete what is before my eyes. If what people see is pleasing, it will teach me.
During the second day after Ch’ing-ming of the year 1651, the Recluse of Green Valley, Ch’iu Yueh, recorded this at the Ching-I Ts’ao-t’ang (‘Grass-roofed Hall of Quiet Harmony’).”
Leaves 15-17: Preface mounted at end by Hsu To
Colophons facing each leaf:
Leaf 1. Ch’u Chuan (1592-1688) in 1668
Leaf 2. Pai Meng-ying in 1652
Leaf 3. Shu Ch’i-wei in 1652
Leaf 4. Shu Ch’i-wei in 1651
Leaf 5. Wang Chi-sheng in 1656
Leaf 6. Ts’ai Hsing-hsing in 1656
Leaf 7. Shu Ch’i-wei
Leaf 8. Shu Ch’i-wei in 1652
Leaf 9. Pai Meng-ying in 1652
Leaf 10. Hu Chu in 1652
Leaf 11. Shu Ch’i-wei in 1651
Leaf 12. Shu Ch’i-wei
The twelve landscape paintings of this album demonstrate full conceptual and technical mastery of the lineage of literati masters defined by Tung Ch’i-ch’ang (1555-1636) as being worthy of emulation. On the other hand, the paintings are not slavish imitations of known works by those artists but rather creative re-workings of those styles to yield images that easily recall the master being followed while yet remaining original and clearly the work of the same inventive mind. The use of silk rather than paper as the medium defines the artist as a conservative artist but one whose exceptional technique allowed him the luxury of choice.
Although Ch’iu Yueh is recorded as an artist of the Ch’ing dynasty, born in Wu prefecture, the modern Suchou in Jiangsu province, his exact dates have been difficult to ascertain. The first colophon here, however, is by Ch’u Chuan (1592-1688) and is dated to the year 1668. Ch’iu Yueh was thus active during the early decades of the Ch’ing dynasty and the date for this album must be 1651. The dates for the writers of the remaining colophons are still unknown but several clearly knew him and are thus most likely his approximate contemporaries. One writer referred to Ch’iu as an yin-jen or “recluse” as did he himself in his inscription here; Ch’iu may thus be counted among the i-min or “left-over” subjects of the defeated Ming dynasty who after 1644 refused to serve the government and lived in relative obscurity. Ch’u Chuan and several of the other colophon writers did serve in the capital but most were from Suchou, like Ch’iu Yueh himself, and clearly they knew him through local connections rather than in the north. At present the Palace Museum in Beijing has two paintings by Ch’iu, both dated to the year 1655.