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Painting

After the Line "Idly Watching Children Catch Willow Flowers"
Chou Ch'en (ca. 1460-after 1535), Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 116.6 x 63.5 cm

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Chou Ch'en (style name Shun-ch'ing; Tung-ts'un, E-ch'ang san-jen), a native of Wu-chün (modern Soochow, Kiangsu), studied landscape painting from Ch'en Hsien (1405-1496), achieving the methods of Sung (960-1279) painters, particularly the styles of Li Ch'eng (919-967), Kuo Hsi (ca. 1001-1090), Ma Yüan (fl. 1189-1225), and Hsia Kuei (fl. 1180-1124). He also excelled at figures with an archaic yet unusual style that is detailed yet free. His two most outstanding students were T'ang Yin (1470-1523) and Ch'iu Ying (ca. 1494-1552).

Outside a hall in the shade of willows, a scholar watches three children trying to catch willow flowers in the spring breeze. The theme appears to be based on two lines of poetry. One by Po Chü-i reads, "Who is more at play than children, searching the spring breeze for willow flowers?" The other by Yang Wan-li reads, "I listlessly rise from my nap, idly watching children grasp at willow flowers."

The composition here is dominated by the foreground. Like the Che School style, it derives from the Ma Yüan and Hsia Kuei tradition, but without the powerful brushwork. The style here is from the lyrical one of the Southern Sung court. The "fine-line" figure painting of Chou's student Ch'iu Ying originates with the manner in this painting.
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