An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Wusheng shishi 無聲詩史

Apr 5, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Wusheng shishi 無聲詩史 "Poems without voices" is a book on painting compiled during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Jiang Shaoshu 姜紹書 (d. c. 1680), courtesy name Eryou 二酉, from Danyang 丹陽 (Zhenjiang 鎮江, Jiangsu). He was once an officer in the metropolitan guard (? can zhongfu junshi 參中府軍事), and was later a ministerial director (lang 郎) in the Ministry of Works (gongbu 工部) in the secondary capital Nanjing 南京. Jiang wrote the "brush-notes"-style (biji 筆記) book Yunshizhai bitan 韻石齋筆談. The title of the art book is derived from a sentence in a poem of Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅 (1045-1105), who likened calligraphy with "voiceless poems". In his preface, Jing says that "poetry was shapeless paintings, and paintings were wordless poems" (yasong wei wuxing zhi hua, danqing wei buyu zhi shi 雅頌為無形之畫,丹青為不語之詩).

The book on painting has a length of 7 juan and discusses in its main part (ch. 1-4) the paintings of 200 persons from the Ming period. Fascicle 5 is dedicated to 22 female painters, while the last two chapters deal with lost artworks and those of minor quality or such of amateurs. By far the largest part of the text was written by Jiang himself, and only a small number of statements go back to Wang Zhideng's 王穉登 (1535-1614) Wujun danqing zhi 吳郡丹青志. Jiang puts great emphasis on female painters and on their views on painting, taking into account the expertise of various authors, and assumes fair view on the comments on different schools of painters. Unfortunately, the biographical notes on painters are very short.

The book is included in the series Shugu congchao 述古叢鈔 and Huashi congshu 畫史叢書.

Chen Chuanxi 陳傳席 (1996). "Wusheng shishi 無聲詩史", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Yishu 藝術卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 778.
Fu Huimin 傅慧敏 (2012). "Qingchu huashi xuezuo de xin qushi: Wusheng shishi de zhuzuo fangfa yu huaxue sixiang tantao 清初畫史寫作的新趨勢趋势——《無聲詩史》的著述方法與畫學思想探討", Meiyuan 美苑, 2012 (4): 87-89.
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1816.
Tao Mingjun 陶明君, ed. (1993). Zhongguo hualun cidian 中國畫論辭典 (Changsha: Hunan chubanshe), 304.
Xue Yongnian 薛永年 (1992). "Wusheng shishi 無聲詩史", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Meishu 美術 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 866.