The Four Monks (四僧)

The Four Monks (四僧) were Bada Shanren (八大山人), Shitao (石濤), Kun Can (髡殘) and Hong Ren (弘仁). They were painters from the late Ming to early Qing period, who became monks after the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 and the reign of the Manchus. The Four Monks expressed their frustration, confusion and feeling of loss in their paintings. They portrayed the complicated state of their inner world in their unique styles that differ from the old traditional patterns of the orthodox literati painters.


Hong Ren (弘仁) (1610-1663) (born Jiang Fang 江) became a monk after the fall of the Ming Dynasty. Hong Ren’s style has been said to represent the world in a dematerialized, cleansed version through the geometric abstraction in his paintings.

Hong Ren (弘仁) (1610-1663), Snow on Pines at the Western Peak (西岩松雪圖軸), hanging scroll, ink on paper, 192.5 x 104.5 cm, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)



Kun Can (髡殘) (born Liu Shixi 劉石谿) (1612- 1673) spent most of his life in Jin Ling (金陵)(now Nanjing (南京). He became a Chan Buddhism monk at an early age and was abbot of a monastery on Niushou Shan (牛首山). He called himself Can Daoren (殘道人), Dian Zhu Daoren (電住道人) and Shi Daoren (石道人).

Kun Can (髡殘) (1612- 1673) Landscape after Night Rain Shower, 1660, hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper, 95.5 x 58.9, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)



Bada Shanren (八大山人) (born Zhu Da 朱耷) (c 1626—1705) was of royal descent, being a direct descendant of the Ming dynasty prince Zhu Quan (朱權) who had a feudal establishment in Nanchang (南昌). He became a monk after the fall of the Ming Dynasty.

Bada Shanren (八大山人) (c 1626—1705) Landscape (山水圖軸), hanging scroll, ink and light colour on silk, 184.5 x 45.3 cm, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)



Shitao (石濤) (born Zhu Ruoji 朱若極) (1642–1707) was born into the Ming Era’s imperial clan. He became a Buddhist monk after the fall of the Ming Dynasty. Shitao was also known as Kugua Heshang (Bitter Gourd Monk -苦瓜和尚), Yuan Ji (Origin of Salvation – 原濟), Xia Zun Zhe (Honorable Blind One – 瞎尊者), Da Dizi (The Pure One – 大滌子).

Shitao (石濤) (1642–1707) Landscape (山水圖軸), hanging scroll, ink on paper, 93.8 x 46 cm, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)


The Four Wangs (四王)

The Four Wangs (四王) were four great landscape painters in the 17th century. They all had the same surname Wang. They were Wang Shimin (王時敏), Wang Jian (王鑒), Wang Hui (王翬) and Wang Yuanqi (王原祁). They represented the so-called ‘orthodox school’ of painting at the time. They continued with the traditional styles of landscape painting from the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms and Northern Song periods, Southern Song period, Yuan period.


Wang Shimin (王時敏) (c 1592-1680) was also known Wang Yan ke (王煙客).

Wang Shimin (王時敏) (c 1592-1680) Taking Leave for Yushan Mountain (虞山惜别圖軸), hanging scroll, ink on paper, 134 x 60 cm,  The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)



Wang Jian (王鑒) (c 1598-1677) was also known as Wang Xuanzhao (王玄照), Wang Xiangbi (王湘碧) and Ranxiang anzhu (染香庵主).

Wang Jian (王鑒) (c 1598-1677) Landscape after Huang Gongwang (仿子久山水圖軸), hanging scroll, ink on paper, 95.5 x 34.5 cm, Shanghai Museum (上海博物館)



Wang Hui (王翬) (1632–1717) was also known as Wang Shigu (王石谷), Geng yan Sanren (耕煙散人) and Qing hui Laoren (清暉老人).

Wang Hui (王翬) (1632–1717) Ravines with Running Streams (陡壑奔泉圖軸), hanging scroll, ink on paper, 74.3 x 31.4 cm, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)



Wang Yuanqi (王原祁) (1642-1715) was also known as Wang Maojing (王茂京), Wang Lu Tai (王麓台)Shishi Daoren (石師道人).

Wang Yuanqi (王原祁) (1642-1715)  Landscape after Wang Meng (王蒙山水軸), hanging scroll, ink on paper, 154 x 64.5 cm, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)


The Four Wangs together with Wu Li (吳歷) and Yun Shouping (惲壽平) are known as the Six Masters of Ming (清初六家).

Wu Li (吳歷) (c 1632-1718) was also known as Wu Yu Shan (吴漁山), Taoxi Jushi (桃溪居士) and Mojing Laoren (墨井道人).

Wu Li (吳歷) (c 1632-1718) Playing Guqin in the Pine Ravines (松壑鳴琴圖軸), ink and colour on paper, 103 x 50.5 cm, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)


Yun Shouping (惲壽平) (1633-1690) was also known as Yun Nantian (惲南田). Yun was famous for his flower paintings.

Yun Shouping (惲壽平) (1633-1690) 茂林祟山圖軸, hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper, 129 x 59 cm, The Shenyang Imperial Palace Museum (沈陽故宫博物院)



Other major landscape painters of the Qing Dynasty

Cheng Zhengkui (程正揆) (c 1604-1670) was taught by Dong Qichang (董其昌) and collaborated with Kun Can (髡殘). He painted more than 400 long scrolls of landscape. He was also known as Qingxi Daoren (青溪道人).

Cheng Zhengkui (程正揆) (c 1604-1670) Landscape (山水圖軸), hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper, 1142.2 x 37 cm, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)



Gong Xian (龔賢) (1618–1689) was the leading painter of the Jin Ling (金陵)(now Nanjing 南京) School (金陵畫派). One of Xian’s greatest accomplishments includes his development of the style Jimo (積墨), a technique which involves the piling of ink to create layered landscapes.

Gong Xian (龔賢) (1618–1689) Mountains beyond a River (隔溪山色圖軸), hanging scroll, ink on paper, 162.8 x 71.3 cm, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)



Mei Qing (梅清) (1623-1697) was also known as Mei Yuangong (梅淵公 or 遠公), Qushan (梅瞿山), Xue Lu (Winter Hut 雪廬) and Lao Qu Fan Fu (老瞿凡父). He was a friend Shitao (石濤), influencing some of Shitao’s earlier works. His landscape paintings were based on his many travels to the Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain 黄山).

Mei Qing The Lofty Mountain and Flowing Water (高山流水), hanging scroll, ink on paper, 249.5 x 121 cm, The Palace Museum (故宫博物院)

Huang Ding (黄鼎) (1650-1730) was also known Zhungu (尊古), Kuangting (曠亭), Xianpu (閒圃), and Du wangke (獨往客).

Huang Dong (黄鼎) (1650-1730) Two Ravines in Mount Emet (峨嵋雙同洞圖), 1714, hanging scroll, ink on paper, 284 x 130 cm, Shanghai Museum (上海博物館)






Liu Yang, et al (2004) Fantastic Mountains- Chinese Landscape Painting from the Shanghai Museum 靈山: 上海博物館藏中國明清山水畫, Art Gallery of New South Wales, ISBN 0-7347-6356-5

楊海平, et al (2013) Illustrated Handbook of Chinese Painting History 中国绘画图鉴 浙江人民美术出版社 ISBN 978-7-5340-3666-8

楊新 (1997)  故宫博物院扉藏文物珍品全梁集 10 金陵諸家繪畫 商務印書館 ISBN 962 07 5226 0

單國强 (1999)  故宫博物院扉藏文物珍品全梁集 11 四僧繪畫 商務印書館 ISBN 962 07 5233 3

蕭燕翼 (1996)  故宫博物院扉藏文物珍品全梁集 12 四王吴惲繪畫 商務印書館 ISBN 962 07 5205 8 (程正揆) (黄鼎)