China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
This paper re-examines the impact of the Ming-Qing transition on the art of Xiang Shengmo (1597-1658). Xiang developed his extraordinary painting style from the excellent family collection, which arguably helped shape our understanding of the history of pre-modern Chinese painting. The fall of the Ming dynasty and wars that followed abruptly ceased the peaceful life where Xiang enjoyed literati pastimes. In his paintings and writings dated during the transitional period, Xiang blankly expressed remorse for the loss of his nation, family, and family collection. The most renowned example may be his Self-Portrait in Red Landscape (1644), where he staged himself in a landscape painted only in red, a color alluding to the surname of the ruling family of the Ming, and referred to himself as a servant, chen, to the fallen dynasty. Since Chu-Tsing Li published his research on Xiang’s poetry and painting on eremitism in 1976, Xiang has become an iconic figure in scholars’ discussion of “posttraumatic art” of Ming loyalists. In this research, instead of portraying Xiang as a tragic remnant subject of the Ming, I focus on how Xiang’s penchant for reclusion helped him cope with the new order during the Qing. After the turmoil caused by the dynastic transition was settled, Xiang again took up the theme of reclusion, on which he had created several ambitious paintings since young age. The different intentions and artistic expressions in Xiang’s paintings on reclusion, therefore, are also investigated to reveal how Xiang and his art progressed through time.