Great Chinese Artwork: Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains

子明卷(對應於剩山圖部分) ‘The Ziming Scroll’ (The part corresponding to ‘The Remaining Mountain’). (Image: Secret China)
子明卷(對應於剩山圖部分) ‘The Ziming Scroll’ (The part corresponding to ‘The Remaining Mountain’). (Image: Secret China)

The Chinese painting Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains is a masterpiece created by Huang Kungwang, who is considered the most revered painter among the Four Great Masters of the Yuan Dynasty. As it ushered in the pinnacle of ancient Chinese landscape painting, Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains was later praised as the most magnificent work in landscape painting.

Dwelling_in_the_Fuchun_Mountains_(first_half)

‘Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains’ by Huang Kungwang 黃公望. (Wikimedia Commons)

Huang began serious studies in painting only at the age of 50. At the age of 78, he moved to the Fuchun Mountains (southwest of Hangzhou, along the northern bank of the Fuchun River) where he spent the rest of his life. There, he painted a number of natural landscapes, among them Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.

Chinese painting

‘富春山居圖’ (台北故宮藏) ‘Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains’ (preserved in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan). (Image: Secret China)

Since the Yuan Dynasty, all artists regarded having the opportunity of viewing this painting scroll as a great fortune. In the late Ming Dynasty, Dong Qichang, who was a famous painter and connoisseur, purchased this scroll in the 24th year of Wanli of the Ming Dynasty (1596), but it was transferred to collector Wu Zhiju (Zhengzhi) shortly after. Later, he passed it down to his son, Wu Wenqing, who loved it very much, and especially constructed a building called Fuchun Xuan to store this family heirloom. As painter Zou Zhilin was Wu Wenqing’s close friend, he inscribed Fuchun Xuan for Wu. The inscription reads: “The owner has been with this painting for decades. When sleeping, he puts it near his pillow; while having meals, he puts it near his seat. Day and night, wherever he goes, the painting is with him.” It tells of the extent of Wu’s love for the painting. When Wu had to flee from war as the Ming Dynasty was coming to an end, the scroll was the only thing he took along. When he was dying, he even attempted to burn the painting to accompany him. Fortunately, his nephew rescued the burning Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains in time. However, it is a pity that the first part of the scroll was burned, and the two sections of the remaining part have been separated over the past 300 years or so.

Chinese painting

‘剩山圖’ (浙江藏) ‘The Remaining Mountain’ (preserved in the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou, China). (Image: Secret China)

The smaller piece, also the beginning section measuring 51.4 centimeters long, was subsequently known as The Remaining Mountain (剩山圖). In 1956, it finally settled down in the Zhejiang Provincial Museum in Hangzhou. The longer piece, known as The Master Wuyong Scroll (無用師卷), was taken to Taiwan during the 1950s, and is now at the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Chinese painting

‘富春山居圖’ 局部(子明劵) Part of ‘Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains’ (‘The Ziming Scroll’). (Image: Secret China)

The reason for calling it The Master Wuyong Scroll is that the inscription indicated that the painting should be given to Master Wuyong. Master Wuyong was a Taoist, whose surname was Zheng, and his first name was Wuyong. He was Huang Kungwang’s junior fellow apprentice. The Master Wuyong Scroll was mistakenly identified as a counterfeit, while the imitated scroll, The Ziming Scroll, was mistakenly identified as a genuine piece by Emperor Qianlong. Emperor Qianlong particularly cherished Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains. Not only did he often display it in the palace for appreciation, but he also brought it along during his inspection tours. He even put inscriptions on the scroll 55 times during the 50 years from 1745 to 1794. Almost all of the places available were filled with his inscriptions, which is undoubtedly a severe damage to the painting. As to The Master Wuyong Scroll, it doesn’t have any inscription of the emperor because it was not deemed to be an authentic work. As a result, it was well preserved. The artist who finally identified The Master Wuyong Scroll as an authentic work is famous connoisseur Xu Bangda. In 1973, he published an article entitled the Identification of Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains in the fifth issue of the National Palace Museum Journal, which certified that The Master Wuyong Scroll is genuine, and The Ziming Scroll is a counterfeit.

Chinese painting

子明卷(對應於剩山圖部分) ‘The Ziming Scroll’ (The part corresponding to ‘The Remaining Mountain’). (Image: Secret China)

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