Lake Tai stones are produced in the waters off Mt. Dongting in Suzhou. The best stones are found at the bottom of Xiaoxia Bay off the mountains west of Lake Tai. The extraction of Lake Tai stones began during the Tang dynasty (618-907). During the Northern Song period (960-1127), Emperor Huizong collected scholar's rocks from all over the empire to construct the Genyue Garden, and stones were excavated on a large scale, with the result that the supply of glossy, solid, cavernous, exquisitely wrought Lake Tai stones was gradually exhausted. By the late Ming dynasty (1368-1644), it was even more difficult to find a high-quality Lake Tai stone that was naturally produced in the watery environment of the lake. Replacing such high-quality Lake Tai stones were land-formed Lake Tai stones found at the foot of Mt. Dongting. With texture that was dull and heavy and colour that was confused, such substitutes gradually strayed from the essential standards of quality stones.
Du Wan of the Song dynasty, in Yunlin shipu (Yunlin Stone Catalog), vol. 1, wrote the following about Lake Tai stones: "Produced in the waters off Mt. Dongting. 1 These rocks are solid and glossy. They have strange shapes with interior spaces, see-through holes, curves and twists, and sheer rises. They are coloured white, bluish black, and dark blue-green. As for the stone character, veins traverse every which way; a fine grain reveals itself on close inspection; and the surface has many depressions and small holes, caused by the action of wind and waves. Such depressions are called pellet cavities. When stricken, these stones produce a slight sound."2
Wen Zhenheng (1585-1645), in his Zhangwu zhi (On Superfluous Things), vol. 3, "Tai Hu shi" (Lake Tai stones), had this to say: "Lake Tai stones formed in the water are considered precious. Because the waves strike them for many years, they all develop holes and become exquisitely carved on all surfaces." "There are also small stones that have been submerged in the water for a long time. Fishermen bring them up in their nets. They resemble Lingbi stones and Yingde stones.3 However, the sound is not clear."4
Dongtian Xiu,5 the present scholar's rock, has colour that approaches black lacquer and a firm luster that resembles grease. In between are veins as white as jade. The character of the stone is hardy, powerful, precipitous, and strange. Twisted, pitted columns frame empty spaces. The caves and gullies are mysterious and secluded. Worthy of appreciation from all four sides, this scholar's rock resembles the cave dwellings of Daoist immortals, called in Chinese dongtian fudi (worlds within caves and Daoist paradises). This piece is truly an archetypical scholar's rock for the study.
The apron of the hongmu stand bears the inscription engraved by Zhang Yuelu when he presented this scholar's rock, the Dongtian Xiu in 1944 to Shen Junru to congratulate him on attaining seventy years of age . It reads:
Given to Yushiju.6 Mi Nangong admired stones, calling them elder brothers.7 I too admire stones, calling them elder sisters. Mr. Shen Junru loves stones, especially solid ones. Yushiju contains the four seas and holds a hundred cities; I give this Dongtian stone to enhance its splendor.
Autumn 1944. Respectfully written by Zhang Yuanlun, of Wanshizhai.8
The gift of this scholar's rock, with its Daoist associations, suggests a wish for continued long life.
Shen Junru (1875-1963), zi Bingfu, hao Hengshan, was from Jiaxing, Zhejiang Provence. He enjoyed collecting stones. He wrote a poem in which he said of himself, "I especially like stones. Among them, I select the solid ones." For this reason, he named his abode "Yushiju" (Living with Stones). In 1904 he sat for the palace civil-service examination, receiving the degree of second-class Presented Scholar, and he served as a Secretary for Guizhou in the Ministry of Justice. The next year, as a successful Presented Scholar in the newly reorganized civil-service examination, he was dispatched to France to study law. In 1927 he became Dean of Education of Shanghai College of Law. Simultaneously, he worked as a lawyer, upholding justice. Fearing neither the powerful nor the rich, he became commended in legal circles. He died in Beijing in 1963 at the age of 89. He published Xianfa yaolan (Essential Readings in Constitutional Law, 1922).
Zhang Yuelu, zi Lunyuan or Yuanlun, was from Yongyang, Tianjin. He worked as a lawyer and was well known in legal circles. A good friend of Shen Junru, he also enjoyed collecting stones, especially Yuhua stones and marble.9 He named his residence 'Wanshizhai' (Abode of Ten Thousand Stones). In 1924 he published Wanshizhai Lingyan dalishi pu (The Wanshizhai Catalogue of Marble Stones from Mt. Lingyan).
The Lake Tai stone Qinglianduo (Green Lotus Flower) from the Song Dynasty, installed by Chen Gong'an and is presently in Zhongshan Park in Beijing. It is greyish white in colour, the texture is solid and dense, and the character is dull and open. It can be appreciated from all four sides. Among scholar's rocks located in parks, this is one of the finest.10
A similar black 'Tai' rock was exhibited in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. It was formerly in the Richard Rosenblum Collection of Chinese Scholars' Rocks, illustrated in Robert D. Mowry, Worlds within Worlds, Chicago, 1997, pl. 53.
1. Mt. Dongting forms a peninsula jutting into Lake Tai, in Suzhou Provence.
2. Yingyin Wenyuange Sikuquanshu (Photographic Reproduction of the Complete Texts of the Four Divisions Held in the Wenyuan Pavilion of the Forbidden City), Taipei, 1983, vol. 844.
3. Lingbi stones are found in Lingbi County, Anwei Provence, and Yingde stones (called Ying stones in Chinese) are found in Yingde County, Guangdong Provence.
4. Yingyin Wenyuange Sikuquanshu (Photographic Reproduction of the Complete Texts of the Four Divisions Held in the Wenyuan Pavilion of the Forbidden City), Taipei, 1983, vol. 872.
5. "Dongtian" literally means worlds within caves. Daoists euphemistically referred to the caves where Daoist hermits lived as "worlds within caves."
6. As mentioned below, "Yushiju" is the name of Shen Junru's abode.
7. Mi Fu (1051-1107)—an eccentric Song dynasty painter, poet, and calligrapher—is also known as Mi Nangong.
8. As mentioned below, "Wanshizhai" is the name of Zhang Yuelu's abode. "Yuanlun" is one of Zhang's courtesy names, zi.
9. Yuhua stones are found in Yuhuatai, just south of Nanjing.
10. Ding Wen fu, "Songdai Qinglianduo Taihu-shi" (The Lake Tai Stone Qinglianduo [Green Lotus Flower] from the Song Dynasty), in Yuyuan shangshi (Ornamental Stones in Imperial Parks), Beijing, 2000, pl. 194.
Shen Junru (1875-1963), zi Bingpu, hao Hengshan, served as Chairman of the Central Committee of the Democratic Alliance. Although Shen's ancestral home was Jiaxing in Zhejiang Province, he was born in Suzhou in Jiangsu Province on January 2, 1875.
In September 1908, Shen Junru was appointed chief councilor of the preparatory division of the Zhejiang Provincial Assembly. The following spring, he and Yuan Xingxuen, Chu Fucheng, Chen Jingdi organized the Constitutional Association in Zhejiang to promote the creation of a constitution.
In May 1912, through the introduction of Chu Fucheng and Gu Naibin, Shen joined the Tongmenghui (The Chinese Revolutionary Alliance, an underground resistance movement started by Sun Yat-sen), which later in August of that year became known as the Chinese Nationalist Party (The Kuomingtang, KMT). He also joined the Southern Organization around the same time.
In 1913, he supported members of parliament to impeach Yuan Shikai and was actively involved in the drafting process of the Heavenly Temple Draft Constitution. However, in September, the KMT suffered the defeat of the Second Revolution, the poorly planned and ill-supported armed rising to overthrow Yuan1. In November 1924, Shen Junru and other parliament members declared the establishment of a special session of Congress to confront the Provisional Chief Executive of the Republic of China Duan Qirui and his proposed Aftermath Solution in order to protect the Interim Statute. In the end, the group separated without reaching any solution.
In 1933, he participated in the China League for the Protection of Civil Rights and served as a member of the Shanghai Chapter's Legal Counsel Committee. Later he was elected as Executive Member of the Shanghai Chapter.
In December 1935, Shen, along with his fellow patriots in the Shanghai cultural circle, Ma Xiangbo, Zhou Taofen, etc., organized the Shanghai Cultural Association of National Salvation. The following January, it was expanded to the United Associations of National Salvation in Shanghai.
In early September 1939, along with Zhao Taofen and Zhang Naiqi, etc., he established The Comrade. In 1941, The Comrade developed into the China Democratic Political League. In September 1944, the China Democratic Political League was reorganized as the China Democratic League.
On October 27, 1947, the KMT government declared that the China Democratic League was an illegal organization. On November 26, after the League was forced to disband, Shen left Shanghai for Hong Kong. In January 1948, Shen, together with Zhang Bojun and Zhou Xinmin, etc., convened the Third Plenary Session of the China Democratic League, redefining its objectives and policies.
After the establishment of the country, Shen served as the President of the Central People's Government, Vice Chairman of the first, second and third sessions of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, and Vice Chairman of the first and second sessions of the Standing Committee of the National People's Representative Conference. In 1955, the Chairman, Zhang Lan, passed away, and Shen assumed the position of Acting Chairman. The next year, Shen was elected Chairman for life. In December 1949, the China People's Salvation Association, led by Shen, declared that people in China had become in-charge of their destiny, thus the Association's historic mission was seen a glorious success.
On June 11, 1963, Shen Junru passed away at age 88 in Beijing.
1. Yuan dissolved the KMT in November (whose members had largely fled into exile in Japan) and dismissed the parliament early in 1914. Yuan Shikai proclaimed himself emperor in December 1915.
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