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1 月 26, 2009








An Analysis of the Sung Dynasty Colophons to the “Pictures on Poetry”– Based on Colophons to the “Kui-ch’ü-lai-t’u”, “Ch’i-chi-t’u” and “Yang-kuan-t’u”

Paintings which use poetic material and illustrate the meanings of the poetry are called “Pictures on Poetry.” These paintings sometimes are given colophons.

This essay focuses on three works showing basic kinds of Sung pictures on poetry: the “Kui-ch’ü-lai-t’u” illustrating Tao Yuan-ming’s “Kui-ch’ü-lai-hsi tz’u”; the “Ch’i-chi-t’u” illustrating a line from Tu Fu’s poem “Hsi-wei Wei Yen hua Shuang-sung-t’u ke” (“The song written playfully for Wei Yan’s painting ‘The Twin Pines’”) which reads, “The lonely rest of Hu Monk at the roots of the pine”; and the “Yang-kuan-t’u” illustrating Wang Wei’s setting in “Sung Yuan-erh shih An-hsi.” From the original poem depicted in the painting, the mode of representation and perspective of the image of the original poem, and the way the colophon interprets and explicates these two, we can gain a better understanding of the creative process of these works of art.

In the author’s view, the scroll of the “Kui-ch’ü -lai-t’u” seems to continue the style of narration from the Six Dynasties period. When one views the scroll, as it unrolls before one and then disappears into the other roll, the random series of spatio-temporal structures and narrative from beginning to end makes the graphic dimension resemble writing. The colophon is like searching for an ideal in the course of the imaginary journey on the paper. This experience relieves the pain of “the mind subservient to the body” and so is a process of purification.

As for the “Ch’i-chi-t’u” of Tu Fu, although the excerpted line takes the Ch’an monk under the pine tree as its subject, the picture is not called “Picture of a Monk at the Pine.” Clearly the picture on poetry implies a cultural demand that its topic be bound up with the literary background in order to comprehend the meaning of the picture. Having been excerpted and tempered by the painter, “Ch’i-chi-t’u” becomes a work that is spatio-temporally frozen yet inexhaustible in its meaning. In particular, Su Shih’s phrase “Pu-fang huan-tso Wang-ch’uan-shih” further associates the “Ch’i-chi-t’u” with the poetry of Wang Wei in order to complement the imaginary landscape and try to make it totally satisfying.

The appreciation and inscription of “Yang-kuan-t’u” is another kind of philosophical wisdom. Wang Wei’s poem “Sung Yuan-erh shih An-hsi” has become part of the yue-fu tradition. It has become a song sung at the end of banquets, to send off guests. Li Kung-lin also painted it as a picture. Having been thus transferred and interpreted, it became a cultural code rich in significance. Besides dwelling on the sadness of departure and separation, the regrets of travel into foreign territories, and the remoteness of the Yang Pass where this incident took place, the Sung colophons to “Yang-kuan-t’u” further think about the difficulties of human life, observing that “human affairs are inconstant, then we must take leave.” It offers the hope of overcoming the bitterness of separation through sublimation. It is true that the major theme of “Yang-kuan-t’u” is seeing loved ones depart. However, the visual experience of the graphic expression is after all not the same as the actual vicissitudes encountered by different individuals. And this visual experience is in turn different from the literary works about farewells and departure. Thus we can see the unique literary quality of colophon poetry on the paintings.

The author also adopts three steps followed by western scholars of iconography to study artistic significance, in order to survey the way people view art and write colophons for it. We see that traditional episodes important for the literary arts are the creative sources for the pictures on poetry. Different cultural-historical circumstances can be represented to show their symbolic meanings, and the colophons to the pictures on poetry demonstrate that in the process of ruminating over them, they become endowed with graphic symbolic value; this is the crystallization of the wisdom of discarding the old and accepting the new.

Bulletin of the Institute of Chinese Literature and Philosophy, No. 16 (Mar. 2000), pp. 1-64.

By lofen