The Lyrical Resonance Between Chinese Poets and Painters: The Tradition and Poetics of Tihuashi

by Daan Pan


Arising from the lyrical resonance between poets and painters, Chinese tihuashi (literature, specifically poetry, written about painting) engages painting in various ways, representing (or re-creating) painterly scenes, appraising the painter’ artistry (or personality), or expressing poetic sentiment inspired by paintings. As an interartistic genre associated with almost all genres of painting, tihuashi enriches discourses in Chinese art criticism, art history, and art connoisseurship by addressing many aspects of painting. Through its congenial dialogue with painting, tihuashi has helped nurture a sisterly rapport between Chinese poetry and painting, facilitated a lyrical resonance between the two arts, and ultimately contributed to a total art integrating poetry, painting, calligraphy, and seal engraving.

Along with the painterly genres of tishihua (painting inscribed with poems) and shiyitu (painting rendering the ideas or themes of poems), tihuashi has fostered a heightened awareness among Chinese artists of the mutually inspiring and mutually enhancing power of poetry and painting, setting a fashion for these two arts to achieve ideational as well as formal unity. By virtue of its historical contributions to both arts and its influence on Chinese artists, tihuashi should be studied and appreciated not merely within its own genre but rather in the larger, holistic context of the Chinese interartistic tradition. It is in this context that this book examines the various historical and sociocultural factors contributing to the formation and flourishing of this genre, while also exploring its theoretical underpinnings as well as underlying cultural values.

An essential component of literati art, tihuashi embodies the holistic values peculiar to traditional Chinese aesthetics, in which interartistic mutuality and unity are of central significance. It provides a unique vantage point whereby the poetry-painting relationship can be examined in terms of its multi-faceted significance. As an interartistic subject tihuashi proves indispensable for researches on Chinese poetry and painting. Adopting painting as its subject or subject matter, tihuashi also explores individual Chinese paintings in terms of their provenance or brush work techniques. Some poems from this genre may be used as frames of reference for verifying the authenticity of some existing paintings or provide valuable clues to some lost paintings whose original format and content remain undetermined. An intimate knowledge of this genre also helps cultivate refined sensibilities and connoisseurship in Chinese art.

This book is the first book-length study in English that addresses the subject of Chinese tihuashi exclusively through inquiries of historical and critical synthesis. Shedding interartistic and cross-cultural light on this genre, it is a concise pioneering study intended to provoke further research on tihuashi and also pave the way for a study of its comparability with ekphrastic poetry.

Included in this book are the relevant Chinese texts, which will enhance the reader’s appreciation of the Chinese poetry-painting relationship in the holistic context of Chinese culture, while also developing holistic and comparative perspectives on literature and art in general.

This is an important book for all Chinese art, Chinese literature, and East Asian collections. It can be used as a reference book for both scholarly research and college-level teaching.


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