Spring in Jinling
Works of Fifteen Contemporary Nanjing Painters

Foreword by K.Y. Ng

"For a thousand li the clear waters of the Yangtze River flow like white silk through emerald clusters!K. Behind the coloured boats and wispy clouds, herons rise above silvery crests; no painting can describe the grandeur of this scene". (Wang Anshi,. Remembering the Past at Jinling .)

Since ancient times Nanjing, formerly Jinling, has been accorded the epithets "Prefecture of Emperors" and "Lands of Beauty", and its beauty has long inspired poets and musicians. This city, renowned in the annals of Chinese history, has served as a symbol of prosperity, romance, sorrow and tragedy. From the Six Dynasties onwards, the kingdom of Wu, the Eastern Jin, and the dynasties of Song, Qi, Liang and Chen all established their capitals here and subsequently enjoyed periods of resplendent glory only to be later cruelly trampled underfoot; and so Jingling became a metaphor in Chinese for what Wang Anshi described as "continual prosperity", as well as for its "recurrent tragedies". Many of the natural landmarks and historical sites of the city---Shitoucheng (City of the Rock), Zhongshanling (Zhongshan Mausoleum), Mochouhu (Lake of No Sorrow) and Qinhuai River, as well as handicrafts and products unique to the area---Yuhuatai pebbles and gorgeous brocade with pattern reminiscent of the everchanging clouds in the sky, became highly sought and valued objects. The summer sidewalks shaded by French parasol trees plunge one into an infinite reverie. Nanjing, Nanjing---truly a city of poetry and dreams.

This city provided the environment and historical backdrop that nurtured so many great writers and painters. In the Tang Dynasty the poet Liu Yuxi lamented that the aristocrat Wang Xie watched the swallows build nests in lofty homes then move subsequently to humble residences (Jinling wu ti). The Song Dynasty belle-lettrist and statesman Wang Anshi served as an official in the city. The poet Xin Qiji, after ascending the Pavilion of Mental Pleasures, leaned listlessly against the railings, as he mourned for the loss of land to the Jin Tartars. In painting and calligraphy, Nanjing from the Six Dynasties onwards produced such masters as Gu Kaizhi, Lu Tanwei, Gu Minzhong, Dong Yuan, Shi Xi and Gong Xian; and in the 20th century, Fu Baoshi, Qian Songyan, Song Wenzhi and Ya Ming. Nanjing impresses me for its tranquil environment conducive to the pursuit of scholarship and artistic creation.

Most of the painters in this exhibition are described as "new literati painters". There is probably no agreement on what is meant by this term. Those who use it as a term of praise would probably regard these painters as the inheritors of a glorious ancient tradition of literati painting; others use it critically to describe what they look down upon as a stylistic weakness, the limited recreation of the paintings of the ancient literati artists. For me, the dominant media on which Chinese-style painting relies are the tools through which the works are created - the Chinese brush, water and the ink stick. Chinese painters, particularly professional painters, must be trained in Chinese traditional culture, philosophy and art, be versed in Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist philosophy, steeped in calligraphic technique and have a basic understanding of other traditional arts. These are just the basics, and their mastery is essential. Those who paint Chinese-style paintings quite simply produce works in ink, and within these constraints there can be no "new" or "old" literati-painters.

Bringing this exhibition to fruition is my long-cherished hope. As Lang Shaojun pointed out, Nanjing and Hangzhou are the centres of Chinese ink painting in south China, and these cities have produced many distinctive younger and middle-aged painters working in different styles, each with a unique character. In 2003 an exhibition of painters from ancient Jinling was staged in New York. We cooperate now with Kaikodo to present "Spring in Jinling: Works of Fifteen Contemporary Nanjing Painters", in the hope that it would complement the former, thus enabling the public to appreciate and compare ancient works with the contemporary, an enterprise which I believe has scholarly significance.

The majority of works on show are acquired from the artists but a small number were obtained through purchases in the market. With my colleague, Alex Chiu, I travelled to Nanjing many times, to visit artists' homes and select the paintings for inclusion in the exhibition. We held discussions with the artists during the selection process and later examined the works with Mr. and Mrs. Howard Rogers of Kaikodo, as well as with Mr. Lang Shaojun. We tried our best to select the finest works to ensure that the exhibition is of the highest standard. In the preparation of this catalogue, the staff of Kaikodo provided great help in editing and writing as well as preparing the frames, Louisa Ching of Orientations oversaw the entire production, Pan Chi Ming of Ming's Studio photographed the paintings, Yim Tom and Brenda Li helped revise the English translations, and Ms. Ivy So Hang Yi and my youngest daughter Qianqian spent a great deal of time proof-reading, and to the others whose assistance was so crucial, I wish to take this opportunity to extend my heart-felt gratitude.


K.Y. Ng (Kaiyuen Ng) Translated by Bruce Gordon Doar

Preface by Lang Shaojun
Foreword by K.Y. Ng
Preface by Howard Rogers
Online Catalogue