Circular tsuba, made of iron. It has two holes in the middle. Two figures, Kanzan and Jittoku, are carved on the lower right corner. Kanzan, who holds a scroll on his hand, and Jittoku, who holds a bloom stick and pointing to the sky, are looking upward. The two figures are carved slightly higher than the surface. On the back, there is the moon partially obscured by clouds. Gold and silver alloy inlays are applied to the moon and the clouds. Gold is also inlayed in their eyes, parts of the garments, and Kanzan's scroll. Shakudô (copper-gold alloy) is inlayed in Jittoku's bloom and his jacket collars.
Kanzan and Jittoku are Taoist eccentrics of whom little is known, but they are frequently represented (almost always together) in East Asian arts. Both lived in the monastery of Kuo Ching, spending most of their time in the kitchen, and speaking a gibberish unintelligible to anyone, resenting visitors, and noticing them only with insults. Kanzan holds a scroll, which he expounds to Jittoku, who stands by leaning on his broom. Both have a dwarfed and somewhat boyish appearance, but Kanzan's face is furrowed by age. (Reference: Edmunds, Will H. Pointers and Clues to the Subjects of Chinese and Japanese Art).
The use of light ink to depict the hills and remote mountains was to present the misty and dreamlike Dayu Mountain. Chang applied the wash to creat a sense of wet atmosphere.
The painting depicts a poetic scene in the Dayu Mountain in Taiwan. The colophon in this painting was inspired by a famous Ming dynasty literati painter--Dong Qichang (or Dong Xiangguang as used by Chang). This colophon implies a literati painting tradition of "in painting there is poetry, and in poetry there is painting" since Tang dynasty.
Vertically long image. Ink on silk. Multiple figures gathered near a table. Vegetation in the lower left.
The artist Gai Qi was from a family of Muslim origin that lived in southeastern China, near the port city of Shanghai. A professional painter living entirely on his art, he is best known for delicately rendered images of beautiful women. This garden scene of two young maids serving their mistress a platter of lichee fruit refers to the legendary incident in which when lichees were presented to Yang Guifei (719-756), the favorite consort of the Minghuang Emperor (r. 712–756) during the Tang dynasty. Lichees grow only in southern China, and the fruit was rushed north on horseback each summer to please the extravagant taste of Yang Guifei and her court ladies. One year when celebrating Yang’s birthday, the Emperor named his musical composition The Fragrance of Lichee. After Yang was killed in a riot, the annual arrival of the fruit reminded the emperor of his lost love and caused him great sorrow. This bittersweet motif is often found in Chinese literature and painting.
Hanging scroll with calligraphy and landscape imagery. Three lines of calligraphy adorn the upper left side while opposite is imagery of orchids, grass and a rock.
Gyokuran (her artist name) or Tokuyama Machi (1727/28-1784) was born to educated mother, who was the owner of a teahouse and was known for her skilled poetry composition. While she was young, Gyokuran studied painting under the artist Yanagisawa Kien (1706-1758). Kien also taught Gyokuran’s future husband, Ike Taiga (1723-1776), the most well-known Japanese literati painter. After the marriage, Gyokuran continued her studies under the guidance of her husband, who rose to prominence for his unparalleled brushwork among the contemporary community of painters and scholars. Gyokuran was a skilled poet and painter in the Nanga or Southern Painting school, a group of Synophile Japanese painters who took subject matters and painting styles from Chinese literati masters.
This work alludes to the beloved theme of the “Four Gentlemen,” which consisted of bamboo, orchids, plumbs and chrysanthemums or pines. A gentleman should be strong like bamboo, gentle like the orchid, brave like the early blooming plumb, steadfast like the chrysanthemum and long-lived, like the pine. These plants are lauded as the physical embodiment of an ideal scholarly gentleman.
Vertical hanging scroll of calligraphic text consisting of five Chinese characters in black ink. One of a pair.
These two calligraphic works are done by Chang Ku-nien’s wife, Chen Shu-chen, who was an accomplished painter and calligrapher herself. Written in semi-cursive script, it demonstrates the artist’s affinity for bold and well-defined lines. The couplet of poetry, reads from right to left, praises the importance of one of China’s classics: There are many old books which have many special characters; yet only great I Ching (Book of Changes) shows us a path through past and future.
A rough, red rock seems to grow out of the hillside, almost as organically as the orchids growing next to it. Calligraphic text is in the upper left corner.
Literati theory considered paintings modes of personal expression to be created for private occasions in which they were shared and appreciated by circles of friends. The creation of works with peer artists was also an established literati concept and practice. This painting is a cooperative work by Chang Ku-nien and his artist friends. Cooperative work celebrated respectful mutual relationships and reinforced affections within groups of painters. Inscriptions on such works often declare their corporate nature, mentioning all of the artists’ names and specifying who has done what part. It is common for each artist to be responsible for the part of the painting that best reveals his or her talents. Yet who painted what is not clearly indicated in this work; most likely Chang Ku-nien painted the rock while Liu Yantao and Gao Yihong were responsible respectively for the inscription and orchids. Orchids were appealing subjects to scholar-artists, and their elegance and subtle fragrance have long been regarded as the emblem of righteous gentlemen.
In Orchids and Red Rock, although it was not clearly indicated who did what, Chang most likely painted the rock and his two friends from the Seven Friends Painting Club that he participated, Liu Yantao and Gao Yihong, were responsible for the inscription and orchids respectively. Naturally, in a cooperative work, each artist often takes on a subject best representing his/her talents. Appealing to scholar-artist, the elegance and subtle fragrance of orchids have long been regarded as the emblem of righteous gentlemen, thus a suitable subject for scholars alike.