Landscape in the style of Wang Meng, (c. 1309-1385)

Bada Shanren1692/1696

National Gallery of Victoria

National Gallery of Victoria
Melbourne, Australia

Bada Shanren derived his early fame for his enigmatic mocking birds and painted landscapes late in life. This is one of a set of four landscapes, dated c. 1694, which evokes the styles of the four great masters of the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368). They are Huang Gongwang (1269–1354), Ni Zan (1301–1374), Wu Zhen (1280–1354), and Wang Meng (c. 1309–1385).

Bada’s creative approach to the styles of the Yuan masters was largely inspired by the artist Dong Qichang’s theory and style of painting. Dong formulated the `orthodox’ lineage of scholar-amateur painting, tracing its origin to the Tang dynasty (618–907) poet-painter Wang Wei (699–759). Dong also advocated and conducted a creative approach to painting within tradition by transforming the styles of the ancients into an individual style of one’s own. Like the Yuan masters, Bada painted his inner landscapes in the expressive xieyi (writing ideas or conceptions) manner and showed his mastery of calligraphy through the eloquent ease of his brush.

By transforming the styles and underlying principles in the paintings of the four great masters, whom Dong included in his orthodox lineage, Bada has achieved an individual style of expression that reflects its artistic lineage, which is the scholar-amateur tradition of painting. The landscapes are secluded and solitary; man is absent. Bada has used the images of nature to express his inner vision and the brushwork of calligraphy to ‘write’ landscapes of the mind. These compelling landscapes are like distinct personalities, moods or musical movements. Reading the scrolls from right to left, the landscape quartet rises from a quiet calm to a controlled tempest. Bada’s four landscapes are compelling images of the mind.

Text by Dr Mae Anna Pang © National Gallery of Victoria, Australia


  • Title: Landscape in the style of Wang Meng, (c. 1309-1385)
  • Creator: Bada Shanren
  • Creator Lifespan: 1626 - 1705
  • Creator Nationality: Chinese
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Date Created: 1692/1696
  • Location Created: China
  • Physical Dimensions: 174.5 x 45.0 cm (Image and sheet)
  • Type: Scroll Paintings
  • Rights: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the Rachel and Freda Goldenberg Memorial Trust, Governor, 1983, =A9 National Gallery of Victoria
  • External Link: National Gallery of Victoria
  • Medium: ink and pigment on silk
  • Biography: Bada Shanren was a descendant of the imperial family of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). A child prodigy, he was already writing poetry and distinguished for his painting and calligraphy by the age of eight. When he was barely twenty, the Ming dynasty fell to the Manchu invaders. His father died shortly thereafter. These tragic events disturbed him greatly. He left home and withdrew to the mountains, where he found political and spiritual refuge as a monk in a Chan (Zen) Buddhist temple. In 1684 he took on the name of Bada Shanren, meaning `Man of Eight Great Mountains’, with which he signed and sealed his paintings. After more than thirty years of monastic life, he left the temple and returned home to Nanchang, Jiangxi province, where his eccentric behaviour gained him the reputation as a mad monk painter. It is said that Bada Shanren ‘had the genius of an immortal who disguised himself as a calligrapher and a painter’. As if madness was associated with genius, his biographer, Chen Ding (born c. 1658), recounted in the 1680s: Shanren [Bada Shanren] was crazy! But how then can the production of his brush have such strength? I have asked people from his village, and they all said: ‘He accomplished it while he was drunk.’ Alas! Alas! One can get as drunk as he did, but not as crazy as he was. (Chen Ding quoted in Mae Anna Pang, Mountains and Streams from the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria , National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne 2006, p.57.)
  • Additional information: As Daoji (1642–1708) (also known as Shitao), Bada’s cousin, wrote of him: Sometimes, to strangers, he plays the mad man; His heart is strange, his ways are strange, Wild, heedless his outlook With brush aslant, ink dancing, he finds his true Samadhi (enlightened state of oneness and peace). (Daoji quoted in Mae Anna Pang, Mountains and Streams from the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria , National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2006, p.61) Samadhi, a concept from Chan (Zen) Buddhism, is a state of profound peace, when the mind is free of the duality of the conventional way of logical thinking. The mind returns to its original state of oneness and non-differentiation. Bada Shanren, like other intellectuals, responded to political upheaval and disintegration by retreating into his inner world. Throughout history, Chinese scholars withdrew from the harsh reality of the present by rediscovering the traditional ideals of the past (embodied in the minds of the ancients). Literati painters turned to the ancient masters for artistic inspiration and spiritual regeneration.

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