Jizis Reflections on Art（three）
41. Acknowledging that the highest realm of art exists is
acknowledging that the highest principle of the universe exists. To deny
this principle exists or to turn your back on this principle does not
bring happiness to mankind but disaster. By means of artwork, an artist
inspires and purifies people. An artist grasps the spirit of the
existence of this principle of the universe, and then artistically
expresses this spirit of the universe.
42. Artistic realms have levels. Different levels of artistic realms
reveal the different levels of an artists philosophical thinking.
Different levels of philosophical thinking are expressed as the artists
different artistic levels.
Artists are not the saviors of the world. They merely inspire people
by upholding the spiritual nature that the universe has conferred on
them. Mankind wants to free itself from the predicament it has created,
but also wants to be self-reliant. Artists are also people, and they
also find themselves in the human predicament.
Jizis Reflections on Art（one）
Before artists can inspire and arouse people, they must first
inspire and arouse themselves; they must become people whose spirits are
purified. For these reasons, artists must be people who possess a high
degree of awareness of the universe. At the least, they must be people
who have extricated one foot from the morass that mankind has made.
Artists philosophical thinking relies on artworks for expression.
After a long period of practice and exploration, artists are also able
to use a written vocabulary to summarize theories of a certain academic
value. These theories are not those passed from one book to another, but
rather they are a summarization of repeatedly thinking about experiences
that go from practice to theory, and then from theory to practice. For
this reason, if we compare the theories of artists and the theories of
theorists, the artists theories are more practical but, in their
linguistic ordering and logical aspects, however, the artistss theories
are inferior, but their theories dazzle with far more artistic thinking.
1. I have named my paintings the Tao of Ink Landscapes. The Tao is
the spirit of the great universe. What I seek as an artist is the
unification of Heaven and Earth and Man, insight into the Tao, the
material universe, and myself.
43. In researching an artists achievements, we primarily depend on
the artists artworks, but we should not forget the course of the artists
life and the artists speeches and writings as these speeches and
writings are a more direct statement of an artists thinking.
Tao, also Romanized as Dao, literally means a road, a path, a way
and is the metaphysical principle of Chinas Taoist philosophy. Universe
here is given as qian and kun, both of which are the names of the two
lines, qian solid kun broken, used to form trigrams and hexagrams in
Chinas ancient Book of Changes (circa third millennium BCE.). Qian and
kun are also the names of the two trigrams that represent Heaven and
Earth respectively in the Book of Changes; as such, qian and kun
represent the universe.
44. Acknowledging the existence of the universes highest principle
is not the same as religious belief or worship, but it does have a
2. The artists awakening through meditation and intuiting the Tao
are not the ecstasy of religious believers, but rather an emphasis on
choosing those cultural factors that accord with art and that inspire
the artist to blend them with modern aesthetic concepts in order to
create a new realm of artistic expression.
45. The harmonious unification of subject and object is just the
unity of man and Heaven. This is really what is meant by the mountains
and streams and I had a meeting of the minds and I turned them into art
(Shi Tao).* An artist who just reproduces the object is the slave of
nature, and is a person being transformed by scenery. An artist who uses
the subjective to demonstrate the objective is a master of nature, and
is a person who transforms a scene. This is an artist who gives birth to
the mountains and streams (Shi Tao).**
Awakening through meditation is wu chan. The Chinese terms wu and
chan are more generally known in the West by their Japanese
pronunciations sartori and zen respectively.
* The quote is from Chapter Eight, the Chapter on Mountains and
Streams, in Shi Taos Quotations on Art. The original Chinese is: shan
chuan yu yu shen yu er ji hua ye.
3. Attaining enlightenment by means of the sutras, and profoundly
believing that all sentient beings have the Buddha nature, one does not
return to the delusions of a material world, but rather casts away
delusions and returns to truth. One who returns to truth manifests an
authentic mind. An authentic mind gives rise to great truth, and great
truth gives rise to authentic paintings. Authentic paintings are
spiritual paintings, and spiritual paintings attain the realm of the
** Ibid. The original Chinese is: shan chuan tuo tai yu yu.
The quoted remarks are attributed to Bodhidharma, the Indian
Buddhist who lived circa the 6th century CE, and reputedly introduced
the Chan (Japanese: Zen) or sudden enlightenment School of Buddhism to
46. With regards to the transcendent nature of the unity of Heaven
and man, the Buddhists refer to it as: Bhutatathata (literally: thus
always), the emptiness of the nature of things, Tathagata (literally:
(he who) comes thusly), nirvana (literally: not subject to birth and
death), the emptiness of all dharmas, the emptiness of all things
causally produced, the Buddha and I are not two (i.e. all sentient
beings have the Buddha nature), and the dharma realm of the one
reality.* Lao Zi referred to it as non being.** If an artist is
capable of intuiting these terms then his artworks will be spirited, and
this is called perfect understanding of ones nature.
The word xin, which literally means heart, is translated throughout
as mind because, in the Chinese philosophical tradition, the heart,
regarded as the seat of consciousness, is the mind.
* For more information on these Buddhist terms, Cf. Soothill and
Hodous, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, various editions and
The Chinese word zhen (真) can mean both true and authentic.
** Wu, non being, is a concept developed by Lao Zi in the Daode
4. Practitioners of Chan Buddhism say about meditation that things
viewed in the external illuminate the internal. This is also true of
painting the Tao.
47. The many flow along but the Tao ebbs. Artists must first flow
and then ebb. Flowing transforms ebbing; ebbing transforms flowing.
The term, waiguan neizhao, is a Buddhist expression used to explain
how the Buddha, by inwardly reflecting on the external human condition,
discovered the Four Noble Truths.
Assimilate the subjective spirit and the spirt of the universe (the
ontological spirit); from this you will obtain the truth* about the
universe — human life — art. The composition of the artistic image
implies the truth, goodness, and beauty of the spirit of the universe.
That is, it implies that the artists mind is self-purified, and that the
artist has completed an intrinsic combination of factors that allow him
to evaluate the cultivation of his character. At the same time, the
composition of the artistic image expresses the spiritual awakening of
the artist to the life of the universe, and embodies the profound
accordance between the inner life of the artist and the spirit of the
5. If we use the mind to illuminate things, then things are
transformed. If we just use our eyes to view things, then the things we
see are not authentic. Things that are not authentic cannot be created
because creations are things in ones mind. These things in ones mind are
artworks. The Tang painter Zhang Zao said: Learn about painting from
natures creations, but find the source for paintings in your mind. If we
only learn about painting but do not study natures creations, then we
impede both our eyes and our minds. If our eyes are impeded then our
minds lack clarity. If our minds lack clarity, then our eyes will not be
bright, and wisdom will not arise. A painting with no wisdom rarely
captures the essence of its subject.
* The term translated as truth is zhendi, a Buddhist term that is
the truth of a sage or person of insight in contrast to sudi, the common
truth of those who know appearance but not reality.
The Tang Dynasty artist and scholar Zhang Zao lived in the seventh
48. An artist must complete cultivating his character, as only then
can the artist achieve a profound unity with truth, the good, and the
beautiful. His artworks will then inevitably reveal an artistic realm
where the artists own spirit and the spirit of the universe are in
mutually harmony and mutual purity. This artistic realm is not merely
the artists creative state of mind, but more importantly the visual
sensations of the artworks in this realm express the materialization of
6. Once the image is finished, the meaning appears; grasp the
meaning and forget the image. Once we forget the image, the authentic
image appears. The authentic image is the artistic image, something that
an image that is a mere instrument can never imitate.
49. Mr. Li Keran (1907-1989), has said: An artist must use the
greatest determination to break into traditional art, and then use the
greatest determination to break out. This is so, but I also feel,
however, that an artist must rationally break into traditional art, and
then rationally break out. The reason that so many artists break into
traditional art but so few break out is that they lack rationality, or
that their rationality is irrational.
A quote attributed to the philosopher Wang Bi (226-249) in his
commentary on Chinas Book of Changes. The second half of the quote can
also be found in the What Comes from Without (wai wu) Chapter of The
Book of Zhuang Zi. Chinese scholars generally understand the quote to
mean that the image is an instrument that allows us to grasp meaning,
and that meaning is the goal for an artist creating an image.
50. With respect to knowing the natural spirit of the universe, the
dynamism that effectively launches an artists subjective spirit also
transforms the lines of these two spirits into one mainline. The whole
spirit of this singular transformation is expressed by means of the
intuitive visual vocabulary of the artists art. This is just the
artistic realm of the artworks.
The word translated as instrument is qi, a word that means
instrument, device, or tool and is used in The Book of Changes in sharp
contradistinction to dao (i.e. the Tao).
With respect to knowing the spirit of the universe, this spirit does
not have an appearance but rather, by means of the existing exemplar of
the appearances of things, allows the artist to understand inner truth,
goodness, and beauty. This has been described as: great wisdom is like
stupidity,* great images have no forms, great beauty is unadorned, and
great music uses sound sparingly.
7. The paintings of a modern Chinese artist should have a
forcefulness that is both daring and dynamic, and also have
transcendental connotations that are unfathomable, unrestrained, and
The realm that integrates truth, goodness, and beauty must be
expressed in the artworks visual forms, and this is truly difficult. Our
artistic predecessors embodied the eternal existence of this spirit of
the universe through their own personal experiences, but this spirit was
definitely not expressed in their artworks visual forms. Todays artists,
however, want to express this spirit but the traditional artistic
vocabulary has limits, making necessary a creative leap with regards to
the qualitative scope of artistic vocabulary.
8. In my landscape paintings, the image means an awareness of the
image, which is also an awareness of the Tao, an awareness of the
universe. The image governs the impression in impressionistic artwork.
The meaning of impression in impressionistic is the microscopic. While
the meaning of image connotes the creation of a macroscopic image, this
image is not what is conventionally called impressionistic sketches. The
former is the Tao; the latter, but an instrument.
This type of creativity is not just manna from Heaven, but rather is
an integration of our absorbing and mixing the artistic inheritance from
the past, the present, and from China and abroad so that it expresses
that Great Pristine that arose from the chaos of the primeval state of
the universe. In primeval times, there was no artistic method because
the Great Pristine had not broken loose from chaos. But as soon as the
Great Pristine broke away from the primeval chaos, artistic method
became established. How did artistic method become established? It
became established as the uniqueness of painting. (Shi Tao)** This
uniqueness of painting, from a conceptual standpoint, must be
established by the artist himself.
As noted above, this philosophic contradistinction between the Tao
(dao) and an instrument (qi) is from The Book of Changes.
* The saying: Great wisdom is like stupidity originated with the
Song Dynasty poet Su Dongpo.
9. There is a distinction in the black used in paintings between
real black and false black. Real black is the application of pure black.
In false black, however, one can regularly see objects as false black
has a certain transparency. When painting in the traditional categories,
artists mostly avoided real black calling it dead black, but I boldly
enable dead black, because it has certain functions in an artwork as a
whole. If, however, we simply paint black in isolation, it has
absolutely no meaning, and is simply a dash of dead ink.
** This quote constitutes the opening lines of Shi Taos Quotations
on Art. My translation follows Wu Guanzhongs explication in his Wo kan
Shi Tao Hua Yulu. The Great Pristine (tai pu) is another expression for
the Tao. The Chinese for the uniqueness of painting is yi hua and, as Wu
Guanzhong notes, this expression has a wide variety of interpretations.
I follow Wus explanation that the uniqueness of painting is simply the
artists own, unique experiences. Yi being understood to mean unique
10. The Tao uses technique as a means of expression, and technique
itself connotes the spirit of the Tao. Because an artist uses the great
brush that leaves no traces, he composes a realm in which a great image
has no form, great beauty has no adornment, and great music uses sound
sparingly. This demonstrates the spirit of a realm of images where
Heaven, earth, and man are one, and there is insight into the Tao,
objects, and one s self, a realm where the artist puts in front of the
viewer indications of the Taos universal spirit. Such an artist is not
only the inheritor of that psychological understanding where a pure mind
gets a sense of the image and glimpses the Tao and the creative state
where the artist loosens his clothing and rolls up his sleeves, but also
such an artist transcends rationalism so that the artist can develop the
realm of the great Tao as a visual concept.
51. Be an artist with theories, not a theoretical artist. Be a
philosophic artist, rather than a poetic artist.
The quote on beauty can be found in the last of the Outer Chapters,
titled Knowledge Rambling in the North, in the Book of Zhuang Zi. The
two quotes Great images have no forms, great music uses sound sparingly
are from Chapter 41 of Lao Zis Daode Jing.
52. The Tao of Ink Landscapes are in essence experiencing for
oneself the complete process of transforming the spirit of Chinese
philosophy into the spirit of Chinese art.
The ideas expressed in this quote can be found in all three of
Chinas indigenous philosophies: Confucianism, Taoism, and those Schools
of Buddhism that are indigenous to China.
53. The Tao of Ink Landscapes are patterns of activity for an
awareness of the Tao, and of course they must be subject to careful
observation as the spirit of the Tao. Awareness of the Tao then is just
an awareness of the spirit of the Tao in the natural universe. Speaking
from a certain perspective, the Tao of Ink paintings possess a
cosmological significance because they play a further unique role as an
exploration of the natural universe, a role expressed via an artistic
The quote of a pure mind getting a sense of the image is from the
artist Zong Bing (375-443), while a pure mind glimpsing the Tao is a
Chan Buddhist statement that has been historically regarded as a
statement of an aesthetic principle. Cf., Zong Baihua, Meixue Sanbu (An
Aesthetic Stroll). Shanghai Peoples Publishing Company, 1981.
54. The natural images of the universe in the Tao of Ink Landscapes
imply making visible my sentiments purified; that is to say, the organic
content of the cultivation of my character. These are not only
sentiments projected onto nature, but also sentiments that combine my
inner life and the spirit of the universe. They embody my cosmological
view of nature.
This quote is from the Tianzi Fang Chapter of the Book of Zhuang
55. The nobility in purifying ones character is that it takes one to
a realm where the self and the spirit of the universe are in mutual
harmony and mutual purity. This kind of artistic realm is the aesthetic
realm of the Tao of Ink Landscapes. It is also my aesthetic awareness of
11. When I was creating the Tao of Ink Landscapes, I wanted to grasp
and embody the spirit of the whole from a macroscopic level. On a
microscopic level, I wanted to show the qualities of objects. In other
words, I was seeking mutual agreement between a macroscopic exploration
of the Tao, and a microscopic exploration of the real. The Tao indicates
the universes eternally unchanging natural spirit in operation. Real
indicates the authentic qualities of physical images, and not the
reality of the natural shapes that appear before ones eyes. If we want
to assimilate the overall spirit of nature (the spirit of the universe),
we must first have an overall awareness, and this kind of overall
awareness is just the spiritual realm that the artwork demonstrates when
directly perceived through the visual sense. The picture constitutes the
artistic realm, and scenes constitute the picture, so that scenes then
are the most fundamental sensual elements. Several sensual elements
compose the overall awareness. When an artist is creating, he must fully
comprehend his artwork from this aspect of overall awareness; otherwise,
if the artist is constrained by a single sensual element, then he
remains an artisan, not an artist. As to the microscopic, the artist
wants to achieve the authenticity of the original object.
If one wants to appreciate and intuit the existence of the spirit of
the universe, this is not difficult to do. This spirit has no form and
no image and cannot be seen; it is intangible and cannot be touched; it
is not a thing that exists independently. Rather, this spirit exists by
attaching itself to the images that you create, where it embraces the
spirit of truth, goodness, and beauty. This spirit assimilates as one
with your essential spirit becoming an intrinsic consubstantial
spirit.* Use this consubstantial spirt to cope with things and events,
and use this consubstantial spirit to depict your landscapes.**
12. Although a painting is small, nevertheless, the artistic realm
should be broad and deep, and painted in such a way that one sees the
universe on the tip of a hair, and can turn the great dharma wheel while
occupying a molecule.
* The term translated as Consubstantial spirit is tongti jingshen.
The quotation is from the Chan Buddhist work Record of Pointing at
the Moon (zhiyue lun), compiled in 1602. Universe here is shifang sha,
literally places in all directions, while turning the dharma wheel
(zhuan falun) literally means enabling the truth of Buddhism. The dharma
wheel, or the Wheel of the Law (Chinese: falun; Sanskrit:
dharma-chakra), is an ancient Buddhist symbol and concept.
** Landscapes here repeats the two words for mountains (shan) and
waters (shui) that make up the Chinese word for landscapes (shan shui)
so that the author is literally saying to depict your mountains and
13. If an artist wants to turn out artwork that attains a high
artistic realm, and expresses a type of grand, broad, virile beauty,
then that artist must seek the source of truth, must reflect and know
oneself, must experience the stillness and the silence, and gain insight
via random feelings.
56. An artists raison dtre is to exhibit his creativity, and whether
or not the artist can discover and express new things. An artist should
not hold onto artistic successes he himself has achieved but should
continue to seek and explore because the art world is unlimited, so an
artist should use his limited life to seek the unlimited artistic realm.
The first two quotations, attributed to Shen Hui (670-762), a
famous student of the Sixth Chan Patriarch Hui Neng (638-713), can be
found in Shen Huis Xian Zong Ji written in 733. The last two quotations
are from the Later Han Dynasty work, The Sutra of 42 Sections,
traditionally attributed to two monks from what is now Central Asia,
Kasyapa Matanga and Dharmaratna, who translated the work into Chinese in
circa the first century.
Translator: E. F. Connelly, PhD
14. If in the end an artist does not dare to break down the mindset
of experience, then ultimately the artist will never create a great
artwork that astonishes people.
15. The traditional high walls and fixed barriers of experience
restrain an artists creative power. An artist must find that difficult
and rare breach in these walls and barriers of experience. When the
artist has found such a breach, he will be startled to discover that his
potential is unlimited.
16. In discussing art, an artist should be introspective and
enlightened; in wielding the brush, an artist must return to the
original state of non-being.
That is, wu, the Taoist concept of non-being.
17. (One who obtains the mysterious Tao) obtains it from within; he
guards it against the external, and uses it to understand the spiritual;
he remains oblivious to instruments. These words essentially describe
how the Jin Dynasty Taoist Baopu Zi thought about the Tao. If an artist
wants to create a superb artwork, this is the best formula.
Superb artworks inevitably at first appear unfathomable, but over
time become precious.
The quote is from the Jin Dynasty (265-420) Taoist work Baopu Zi
(literally The Master who Embraces Simplicity) authored by the scholar
Ge Hong (283-343). Again we see the philosophical contrast between the
Tao (dao) and an instrument (qi).
The Baopu Zi is generally considered a Taoist work although it also
contains elements of Confucianism and Legalism.
The quote is from the Tang Dynasty calligrapher Zhang Huainao (no
18. Large scenes substantially painted evoke great interest, but
small scenes in small paintings should also evoke great interest. What
is of interest is the artistic realm. The shape of the Lang Garden atop
the Kun Lun Mountains can be enclosed in a painting of an inch, while a
three inch vertical stroke can represent thousands of feet in height;
and a few horizontal measures of ink can embody a trail of a hundred
miles. (Zong Bing) And: A very small diagram can contain a scene of a
thousand miles meandering before ones eyes in all directions. (Wang Wei)
Zong Bing (375-443), a painter and calligrapher of the Northern and
Southern Dynasties, authored A Preface to Landscape Painting, from which
the quote derives. The Lang Garden was reputed to be the abode of
Wang Wei (701-761), the Tang Dynasty scholar and poet, authored The
Secrets of Painting, from which this quote is taken.
19. One needs a multi-spatial and multi-temporal stand point from
which to look down on the universe, as this is what is meant by seeing
the overall plan. This is not meant, however, to be a simple comparison
from another perspective. but rather it is meant to be the summing up of
art, the summing up of philosophy and science. When an artist uses the
language of painting to express himself, then he must cultivate the
exquisite. This cultivating the exquisite, however, is not a matter of
overelaborate formalities and superficial lines. While the great is
simple, it is simple in a subtle way.
These two quotes are from the famous 14th century Chinese novel
Romance of the Three Kingdoms and are generally considered the two
different attitudes toward living and learning held by the novels
20. Great objects have no form; great beauty, no adornment; and
great music uses sound sparingly. To express a great realm, then there
must be a great space-time continuum, a great truth, a great principle
of the Tao, and a great spirit of the universe. If such is the case,
then the artist must pursue such corresponding requirements as: great
brushwork, great ability with brush and ink, breadth of mind, mettle,
self-cultivation, and worthiness. Without these, there can be no great
undertaking. Instead, there will be: something made up; a small artistic
realm of little interest; a great scene of little interest; narrow and
21. The Tao of Ink Landscapes were established as a new pattern in
landscape paintings constructed via a consciousness of the great
universe. From beginning to end these landscapes are penetrated by
greatness: a great cultural background, great Chinese paintings, great
brush and ink work, the great spirit of the Tao, a great energy, great
mountains and waters, great fluctuations, great benevolence, great
truth, goodness, and beauty, great humanity and justice, a great awe
inspiring energy, great breadth of mind, great brushwork that leaves no
traces, and a great elegance that appears inelegant.
Because the Tao of Ink Landscapes were an exploration of a
comprehensiveness, multiple perspectives, and newness in landscape
painting, the requirement, premised on the new orogenic engineering, to
achieve these landscapes is a unique creativity that included: a new
aesthetic realm, a new linguistic context, a new schematic structure, a
new conception, a new image, a new mode for brush and ink, new visual
effects, a new aesthetic orientation, and so forth. The Tao of Ink
Landscapes established new concepts of space and time, the universe,
aesthetics that strengthened both the tension on the canvas and the
paintings power to shock. The Tao of Ink Landscapes had to be able to
withstand viewers having a close look at distant views and their
searching and pondering the landscapes. The Tao of Ink Landscapes also
had to achieve a profound and harmonious unity of the subjective and
The apparent contradictions in these phrases, such as brushwork
that leaves no traces and elegance that seems inelegant, is typical of
Taoist philosophic statements. Cf. The Book of Zhuang Zi, the usefulness
of the useless.
22. The Tao of Ink Landscapes are transformations within and outward
signs. The myriad of things in the universe are transformed within while
the outward signs are the spirit of transformations within.
The terms transformations within (neihua) and outward signs (waiji)
are Buddhist in origin. Cf. The Tang Dynasty work Bianzheng Lun,
authored by the Monk Fa Lin.
23. When painting landscapes, one should deliberately seek the
spirit of life, and the real nature of this spirit. Prefer the grand to
the the minute. Prefer the extraordinary to the tedious. Avoid what is
real but soulless, what lives but has no spirit.
24. Painting requires ingenuity but not a blind ingenuity. Blind
ingenuity is called cloyingly clever and is to be avoided. The ingenuity
must be clumsy; and the clumsiness, ingenious. One requires both great
ingenuity and great clumsiness; great ingenuity is like great
clumsiness; and great clumsiness, ingenious.
A typical Taoist contrast of opposites. The word translated above as
clumsy is zhuo which literally means clumsy, unskillful, poor.
25. A painting must be both dynamic and tranquil: tranquilly
dynamic, and dynamically tranquil. Great dynamism and great tranquility.
Great dynamism is tranquil; and great tranquility is dynamic.
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