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Ginkgo and chestnuts by Yun Shouping 惲壽平

“Yinxing lifang” 銀杏栗房 (Ginkgo and chestnut shells)

Album leaf by Yun Shouping 惲壽平 (1633 – 1690)




In the past, Teng Changyou[1] was keen to install stones and plant bamboo, wolfberries and chrysanthemums at his residence to inspire his painting. Broken branches,[2] flowers and fruits – [he] painted all of them as they were. I shall also water flowers in my southern field and entertain myself with moss and grass, drawing on the fine hair [of my brush] and grinding pigments to besing spring breezes. [I] trust in Nature being with me!

Recorded by Shouping


Nantian caoyi 南田草衣 (The Straw-coated One in the Southern Field): One of Yun Shouping’s style names

Shouping 壽平

Yi Yueyun 寄岳雲 (To mountain clouds): One of Yun Shouping’s private seals


As a master of flower-and-bird paintings, Yun Shouping is renowned for his exceptional mogu 沒骨 (boneless) technique. On this leaf, we can see how he depicts his subjects by simply smearing or filling colours without creating a draft drawing or rigidly defined contours.

The inscription doesn’t really explain the choice of plants or their symbolic meaning. It is a bit puzzling why the artist has attached a long note on the inspiration for his prospective life to a leaf of somewhat randomly chosen topics, but such a casual gesture serves as a fitting prelude to the quiet life with nature he was envisaging.

[1] Teng Changyou 滕昌祐 (late ninth century) was a painter known for his depiction of flowers, birds, insects, fruits, and geese. [2] Zhezhi 折枝 (broken branch) is a traditional type of painting that only depicts parts of the plant that have been broken from the stem.


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