MA SHOUZHEN 1548-1604 | ORCHID, BAMBOO, AND LINGZHI
- ORCHID, BAMBOO, AND LINGZHI
- ink and color on paper, handscroll
- 34 by 369.4 cm. 3 1/4 by 145 1/2 in.
Ma Siniang or Jinling, wearing jade inside red chambers, was known as a Ji Bu in rouge [i.e. a woman of courage]. Inside her Peacock Hut, wearing her Broken Jade Hairpin, she was passionate and untrammeled. Living by a bridge over a verdant river, she sang pearl-like notes and danced jade-like dances. With the bones and stomach of a knight-errant, she attracted jealous belittling and libelous criticisms, but these only increased her renown greatly and brought glory to the Qinhuai River. The reason was that in mixing pigments and manipulating the brush, she had a talent and her own style, and she did not charm others by beauty alone. Zhu Shi of Changshui, in his Baoshuting ci, includes a lyric to the tune of "Haoshijin" inscribed on one of Ma's paintings, which he still possessed in his collection. The lyric is as follows: "Ten plus two orchids in a bush / Have the appearance and pose of hundreds and thousands. With the old rouge and face powder washed cleanly away, they reveal their natural colors. The Ji Bu in rouge was renowned in the past, and her paintings are still moving. If one replaced the signature with Madame Guan's, who could tell?" I follow Dige's rhyme in the following lyric: "From the empty valley emanates a subtle fragrance--the recitation of three hundred poems from Weifeng. The powdered women of the Southern Dynasty on their pleasure boats recall the spring colors of yesteryear. They in their silk dresses spilled wine, like tears, onto ones in blue robes, with whom they shared a precious farewell. How many sorrows they had in the hearts, who can know?"
A friend brought Xianglan's scroll painting to show me and asked me to inscribe it. I inscribed an old lyric to bear witness to my encounter with it.
Fu Tiannian's colophon:
The elegant orchids and bamboos are full of spirit. Her art suffices to make one recall her person. The sorrows of the Southern Dynasties still remain. But now the plants will never enjoy another spring.
Zhuang Yan's colophon:
Not many of Ma Shouzhen's paintings have survived. I have seen her ink orchids in the Forbidden City. It is a pity that as a monk who live reclusively in a monastery, I have no right to retrieve it to compare it with this one. The application of colors here is subtle and even, brimming with a natural feeling. All that is missing is a poetic inscription by Wang Baigu.
Jiang Zhaoshen's colophon:
During the Ming-Qing transition, there was a trend amongst literati women to learn the brush arts, but few of their works have survived. What I have seen are mostly casual fan paintings of a few strokes, or else small scrolls that are alike cursorily painted. Xianglan was the most outstanding of the female painters. I have seen a scroll painting of Orchid and Bamboo in the Double-Hook Method by her bearing an inscription by Goudaoren. Painted in just a few strokes, it was infused with an ethereal air and had a beautiful literary character. The present scroll of orchids, bamboo, lingzhi fungus, and rocks has colors additionally. Classical painters never made long scrolls recklessly; they were meant to be ready at hand to be appreciated for a long time, and thus were taken very seriously. The same is true for this work by Xianglan.