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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


Words and Picture: on Lyric Inscriptions in Chinese Painting

Vol. 18 No. 2   12/1988   


Words and Picture: on Lyric Inscriptions in Chinese Painting 


Ping-hui Liao 









Key words



    It will be my contention that lyric inscriptions by Chinese poet-painters, especially those by Sung-yuan poet-painters, actually generate a negative, dialectical movement which upholds the self-reflection of a utopian vision. The self-reflection deepens the thinking of the object of representation by speculation on the necessary revolt and failure by which art makes its break with reality understood. Rather than serving as simple supplements, lyric inscriptions function as counter parts in the texts to produce a conflicting, if not irreconcilable, instant of reading and critique to direct the spectator’s gaze to the inherent negatively and difference within. For the pictures are often about ideal landscapes, by highlighting the discrepancy, owerlessness, or self-betrayal of those utopian visions. Unable to resolve the verbal-visual catachresis, the spectator is forced to engage in a speculative mode of aesthetic experience which enables him to rethink the vision by reenactment of their impossibilities- a re-vision. 

    Since it s a common misconception that space in Chinese painting is simply space to be filled up with inscriptions or seals, I shall start by discussing an inscribed letter in which we find words juxtaposed with a picture that not merely disrupts the unity of the letter but suggests something very different from what the words try to convey. Then, I shall tease out four major types of inscriptions and briefly explain their generic significance. The third and forth sections will attempt to clarify some misunderstandings concerning the interrelationship between words and pictures in Chinese painting. 



Author: Ping-hui Liao
Genre: Article
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