Jizis Reflections on Art
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.
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.
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.
永利集团248cc登录，Jizis Reflections on Art（two）
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.
26. Change the real object into the subject, and turn the visual
sense of reality into reality as seen by the soul. Go from the objective
world to the subjective world by utilizing a type of transcendental
subjective spirit to dominate physical reality. This is the key to
transforming concrete reality into the abstract, it is the golden key as
the material world is changed by mind.Although the real world (that is
life) is the foundation of art, nonetheless, all artwork that has
artistic value is definitely not obtained by a mind changed by the
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.
Acknowledging the existence of the universes highest principle is
not the same as religious belief or worship, but it does have a
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).**
While the quote itself (Chinese: wu sui xin zhuan) is attributed to
the Buddha in The Lankavatara Sutra (compiled in the fourth century CE),
the philosophic idealism expressed in this quote is also a principle of
the Consciousness-only School (weishi lun) that flourished in the Tang
* 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.
This quote, in Chinese xin sui wu zhuan, is the authors play on the
words of the above quote: wu sui xin zhuan (the material world is
changed by mind).
** Ibid. The original Chinese is: shan chuan tuo tai yu yu.
27. When the form of a physical image is changed, although it
forfeits its significance as an object, nonetheless, it symbolizes the
artists expression of an inner mystery. Although unrestraint leads to
exaggeration, and eccentricity produces abnormal forms, these are all
different expressions of the artists mind. When the special features of
the physical image no longer exist, and colors also lose the effect of
pure substance, then what emerges is a transformation in concepts. What
the viewer feels is that the artist has completely exposed his inner
mind. This is something about which the School of Modern Artists in the
West has reached a fundamental consensus and, this being so, they use a
special kind of painting language to convey the souls artistic
- 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.
28. A painting is speech. If the painting reveals ones mind, then
that mind is enlightened.
* For more information on these Buddhist terms, Cf. Soothill and
Hodous, A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms, various editions and
The Chinese word translated as enlightened is fo which literally
means the Buddha; the original meaning of the word Buddha, and its
original Chinese transliteration fotu, however, was the enlightened one.
** Wu, non being, is a concept developed by Lao Zi in the Daode Jing.
29. The source of the mind is the source of art. One who gets his
mind is then capable of getting the objects in his mind. The objects in
ones mind are the objects of art. Art objects are natures creative
transformations. Nature transforms creatively.Transforming creatively,
however, does not mean transforming the ancient, objects, scenes, or art
from outside (that is art from abroad), so how about creating?
- The many flow along but the Tao ebbs. Artists must first flow and
then ebb. Flowing transforms ebbing; ebbing transforms flowing.
Nature transforms creatively is the authors play on the Chinese
term: zaohua, which, as a noun, can mean Nature and, as a verb, to
create or to nurture.
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
30. If you follow the Tao to establish the image, then the image
establishes itself. If you follow the Tao to seek an artistic method,
then an artistic method arises by itself. If you follow the Tao to
structure a scene, then the scene structures itself. If you follow the
Tao to transform an artistic realm, then the realm itself comes into
* 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.
Painting landscapes, the vulgar eye sees scenes but not realms.
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
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.
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.
If there are both scenes and realms, the painter is competent.
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.
If there are no scenes but there are realms,
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.
Then the painter is a Master.
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.
The Chinese for follow the Tao is yuan dao, a term that also has the
sense of going along with the Tao, being on the edge of the Tao, and
because of the Tao.
* The saying: Great wisdom is like stupidity originated with the Song
Dynasty poet Su Dongpo.
31. The scene is an instrument, the artistic realm is the Tao.
** 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
What is called the scene is not the scene;
Be an artist with theories, not a theoretical artist. Be a
philosophic artist, rather than a poetic artist.
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 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 mode.
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.
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
The non-scene is not the non-scene; it is the scene.
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.**
What is called the realm is not the realm;
* The term translated as Consubstantial spirit is tongti jingshen.
The non-realm is not the non-realm; it is the realm.
** 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
What is called the method is not the method;
- 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 non-method is not the non-method; it is the method.
Translator: E. F. Connelly, PhD
As noted above, the word translated as instrument is qi, a word that
means instrument, device, or tool. Qi is used in The Book of Changes in
sharp contradistinction to dao (i.e. the Tao). Cf. Confucius remark in
the Second Chapter of the Analects of Confucius that the princely man
(i.e. the Confucian humanist ideal) is not a mere instrument (qi).
32. Speaking from a macroscopic perspective (the universe reflects
consciousness), the highest artistic realm is where culture expresses
Speaking in a certain narrow sense (where art itself reflects
consciousness), then art expresses culture.
33. Great music uses sound sparingly. Great images have no form.
Great beauty has no adornment. But it is not that there is absolutely no
sound, no form, no adornment. Rather, silence is not without sound; the
formless is not without form; the unadorned is not without adornment;
and this is the meaning of sound, form, and adornment. This kind of
sound, form, and adornment are authentic truth, form, and adornment. If
a painter does not thoroughly comprehend this principle, then that
painter is a conventional artist painting conventional pictures.
34. A great brush leave no traces. No traces are not non-traces.
There are the traces of creativity, of the real, of the original state;
these are all traces. Traces are signs; signs that include: signs of the
mind, the Tao, and the spirit.
Life — the artist — artworks (the eye)
The artist — the cultivation of life — artworks (the mind)
The universe — mans life — art (the Tao)
35. From ancient times until the present, artists have persisted in
the concept of using forms to paint mysteries. I do just the opposite
and use mysteries to paint forms. Using forms to paint mysteries is
reproducing the subject of the painting while using mysteries to paint
forms is an artistic expression. The former repeats the object; the
latter, the subject. Lao Zi said:
Reversal is the movement of the Tao.
Cf. Chapter 40 of Lao Zis Daode Jing.
36. Painting natural objects is a process of objects move with the
mind,the earth transforms following mind, appearances transform
following mind, and the material word is changed by mind. Painting
natural objects is also a process of re-creating according to mind.It is
a process of going from the realm is created according to mind, and mind
is created in accord with the Tao, to follow the Tao to establish the
image, the image is changed by mind, the images of the scene constitute
the scene, the scene returns to the realm of images, and the realm of
images returns to the scene.
This quote is from the Shishi Tongjian, a work compiled by the
Korean Monk known as Caoyi Chanshi (the Grass Cape Chan Monk),
These several quotes about how mind effects changes and
transformations are typical of the philosophical idealism of such
Buddhist schools of thought as Chan, consciousness-only,etc.
37. A landscape paintings qualities and the levels of its artistic
realm are displayed in the following schematic:
Materialized — mindized– Taoized
Eye objects — mind objects — Tao objects
Indicates the material word — indicates mind — indicates the Tao
Literally mindized (xinhua).
Literally Taozied (daohua).
38. Does a painter want to know how good he is? Let him compare
himself to others, and he will know at first glance. Is the painter
thinking of becoming a Master? Then he must start as a conventional
painter, spend several decades striving to cultivate himself and
practicing his art, and only then will he achieve it.
Several basic processes produced the Tao of Ink Landscapes. The
first step was to proceed to the macroscopic conception of the realm of
the Tao. The second step was to proceed to the overall paintings
macroscopic composition based on the requirements of the realm of the
Tao. The third step was to create the image based on the needs of that
composition, the so called laying hold of the Tao to create the image.
As to the aspect of creating the image, I utilized a mode of thinking
that allows for the creation of multidimensional images, sets of
concrete images, abstract images, mental images, and so on. The fourth
step was to paint a draft. In the draft, the painting should be guided
by rationality but there should also be some irrational elements. There
should be inevitable accidents, and accidental inevitabilities brought
about by the learning and cultivating that is a convergence of artistic
processes. This type of bringing about is unconscious, but there are
also conscious elements so that by doing nothing, nothing is not
done.Chinas spirit of the great Tao and the characteristics of Chinas
nationalities are naturally embodied in this, and when we add
individualized applications such as the relationships between brush and
ink, false and real, complex and simple, black and white, and other such
applications, then the the concrete artistic language avails itself of
the Tao to come into being, and lays hold of the Tao to establish
itself. In this there is a rational, meticulous creativity, and also
some irrational randomness. There is a rationally transcendent epitome,
but also the traditional unity of Heaven and man, a creative mood in
which both the ego and objects are forgotten, and a state that
transcends rationality in which Heaven, man, and earth are one and the
Tao, objects, and the ego are fully comprehended. The fifth step was the
last overall putting of things in order. From here, the Tao of Ink
Landscapes are not just the traditional literatis poetic paintings,but
the poetic mind of Heaven and earth and also of the philosopher. The
artworks are awe inspiring and majestic and touch peoples heartstrings.
They are a harmonious unity of the subjective and the ontological as
well as the smooth assimilation of subject and object. They provide each
individual with a different inspiration, and they are also the visual
appearances of the spirit of the great Tao. They demonstrate that
Chinese paintings striving for the highest spiritual realm are not only
a creative state of mind but also, and more importantly, paintings of a
realm directly perceived through the visual sense.
Cf. Chapter 37 of Lao Zis Daode Jing.
An allusion to the Song Dynasty poet and painter Su Dongpos
(1037-1101) famous remark that in a painting there is a poem; in a poem,
39. Chinese painting is one form of Chinese culture and, regardless
of whether it is the past, present, or future, it is an inheritance that
continues, by expansion and creation, to develop artistic forms that
possess the people of Chinas cultural spirit.These forms of drawing
follow the development of history and possess the spirit of the times of
each historical period. This spirit of the times is frequently expressed
in schematic representations that are expressions of forms (some say
that brush and ink paintings ought also to follow the times). What I
want especially to stress here, however, is that, regardless of what
historical period the artworks of the times represent, there is one main
current that permeates them all, and that current is the significance of
the people of Chinas cultural spirit that is the backdrop to all these
artworks. This current is the fundamental soul of the people of Chinas
art; their strength of character.
A people that has experienced several thousand years, close to ten
thousand years, of historical development, are a people whose cultural
spirit has formed a deep seated memorial. This memorial, following
historical developments, is an eclectic mix that synthesizes mankinds
advances in every historical period, and these have both strengthened
and enriched this memorial. Simultaneously, the people of Chinas
cultural spirit is absorbed by other peoples consolidating even further
the common pursuit of a human cultural spirit. Even if we engage in
wishful thinking, and use a utopian style of education, thought, and
behavior to the point of making it mandatory to make changes to this
memorial, and even if we were to expend all our energies for several
decades on this endeavor, ultimately we would have to admit defeat, and
we would be guilty of impeding the progress of history.
At the convergence of the end of the twentieth and the beginning of
the twenty first centuries, Chinese painting, which is one method of
demonstrating the people of Chinas cultural spirit, was criticized by
some people who said that brush and ink paintings amount to nothing, and
by others who said hold fast to the bottom line for brush and ink
paintings, a confrontation that sparked heated debate. In essence,
paintings are nothing but the expressions of forms. I believe that the
most important matter is to uphold the people of Chinas cultural spirit,
and that to improve and enrich their strength of character is of the
essence. As to whether Chinese painting amounts to nothing or to whether
we should hold fast to the bottom line, these both serve the people of
Chinas cultural spirit.
The term translated as people of China is minzu, literally a people,
a nation, an ethnic community. Because China is a composite of many
different peoples, however, and because the author clearly refers to all
of these peoples, I have used people of China rather than Chinese
people, a term often mistakenly thought to refer only to the majority
The term is jiliang, literally backbone but by extension, and
similar to its use in English, strength of character.
40. Art is not philosophy, but art can answer some of the questions
that philosophy raises. These answers are not graphic solutions, nor are
they some kind of philosophic symbols; instead, they are a kind of
extension of the philosophic spirit.
Artists must be deep thinking philosophers. Philosophers depend on
language to expound their philosophic thinking. Artists depend on their
own unique artistic schematic vocabulary to trace their own philosophic
thinking; in other words, the deeper meaning of artworks.