Acquired directly from the artist, 1992
Liu Dan’s love for scholar’s rocks and specifically for the Heavenly Sound Stone inspired a series of rock paintings, of which the magnificent painting offered as Lot 266 is the second. These scholar’s rocks have been admired and collected since the Han Dyansty (206 BC – 220 AD), with connoisseurs admiring four principal qualities: elegance (shou), texture (zhou), channels (lou), and holes (tou).
A connoisseur himself, Liu captures the essence of these four qualities as manifested in the Heavenly Sound Stone, and Liu’s Heavenly Sound Stone II offers viewers an opportunity to meditate upon the artist’s interpretation of the great rock. Liu’s beautiful calligraphy, at the right of the monumental painting, reveals the artist’s mastery of not only the calligraphic art, but also the traditional texts addressing Mi Zhongzhao’s (1570-1628) renowned scholar’s rock. The text quotes selectively from 17th and 18th century prose and poetry written in appreciation of the scholars' prized stones.
In its combination of image, calligraphy, poetry, and prose, Liu’s painting offers a rare contemporary interpretation of traditional Chinese aesthetics in the language of traditional aesthetics itself. Liu Dan thus perpetuates and renews this extraordinarily rich artistic tradition and takes his place alongside revered masters of centuries past.
(Excerpt from Emperor Qianlong's (1736-1796) poem quoted by Liu Dan and trans. by Richard Lynn, Professor Emeritus of Chinese Thought and Literature, Univeristy of Toronto):
I’ve heard that Mount Moli, dimly discernable
in the mist,
Is out in the middle of Dongting Lake.
Where, coalesced from refined pneuma
of lake and mountain,
Rare stone is produced
fullof holes and delicately wrought.
Though the stone is certainly solid,
it envelops emptiness too—
Truly the principle invloved impossible to fathom.
Someone said things in North and South
Have different natures, one dry and the other wet.
Such is exactly the case here,
Perhaps even an extreme example of it,
For all else falls short.
Don’t you see how
The giant stone from House Mountain
rises up a magnificent peak?
Kiri-wood box, inscribed by the present owner with a translation of the inscription on the first in the series of Heavenly Sound Stone paintings given to him by Liu Dan that discusses the history of the acquisition of the stone. The inscription is signed and dated 2001, and with one seal of the Master of the Water, Pine and Stone [Retreat] .
The brush-written inscription on the box reads :
The 'Universal Sound Stone' belonged to the Master of the Water, Pine and Stone [Retreat], Mo Gong Shiwei. Last summer I travelled to England to visit him in his Summer Retreat for a fortnight. It was a wonderful pastoral delight. Before I left, Gong suddenly remembered something he wanted to show me but had forgotten about, and brought out this rock. In that instant the rock (which had been in my dreams for many years) stood before me. I lost my heart and was unable to control myself. I was also torn by the sweet melancholy of having fallen in love just as I was about to leave. I heard Gong laugh ‘Why do you look so confused? If you would like the rock as your teacher, I will cut my love and give it to you.’
After I returned to Honolulu, the rock was already on my table within two weeks. I couldn't believe it. Incredible! What an auspicious meeting. It is fate. This evening I was sitting at my table, resting my chin, gazing at the rock. I can still hear Gong’s laughter and words echoing through the holes in the stone and they are delightful to my ears.
I remember in ancient times literati saw their rocks as representing very good friendship, and now I realize why and how true it is. I thought about the friendship that had existed between Gong and me for seven years. We totally understand each other. Gong always takes such good care of my life and nurtures my heart. I have often heard people say that it makes no difference whether you are stupid or clever, what matters is who you meet in life. Hence Qingping and Jielu. Today Gong has Ziqi’s understanding and Xie and Biyan’s knowledge, so he can read my mind and my hearts and understand and support my ideas. With refined taste one can see high meaning in something which is apparently insignificant to others. This rock is to me of infinitely greater meaning than the object itself.
Inscribed at the Garden at the Edge of the Universe in the variable Summer of 2001.
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