‘Textural strokes’ or ‘shading strokes’ have been used to designate the form and texture of hills and rocks in Chinese landscape painting. In Chinese those strokes are known as 皴. There is no generally accepted English translation for them and some scholars call them ‘Ts’un’ or ‘Cun’. There are about twelve to fifteen common textural strokes widely used by landscape painters for the last millennium. The mountains in China really look like those textural strokes portrayed in paintings.
Chinese artist does not strive for illusionistic modelling that is dependent upon the manipulation of light and shade; rather, after the forms are outlined, textural strokes are used to give character to the form, ranging from a suggestion of its tactile surface to a summary visual impression (Britannica).
A few months before I migrated to Australia, Mr Ip kindly painted me an album of 12 paintings showing the 12 different types of Ts’un. He started the first painting twelve days before Winter Solstice (冬至) in 1988 (戊辰). He painted one painting each day and finished the last one on the day before Winter Solstice. This album has high sentimental value to me. As this album is also highly informative and educational, I would like to share the twelve paintings with my readers.
Album Cover Title written by Professor Wong Wai Cheong (黃維琩教授)
松盦 Song An is the sobriquet or penname of Mr Ip. This Album Cover Title was written in the early Autumn of 1989.
1 Long Hemp-fibre Ts’un 長披麻皴 – long curve lines running down on the surface of the rock like hemp ropes
- Bent Ribbon Ts’un 折帶皴 – like a ribbon bent, this stroke is always done with a dry brush dragged slanting to the right; then at the required distance dragged downwards with the brush handle slanting at the same angle (Lai, 1983).
3. Large Axe-chop Ts’un 大斧劈皴 – strokes appear like chopping marks made by an axe.
- Mi-dot Ts’un 米點皴 – horizontal oval dots of various sizes of ink tone, wet brush is commonly used.
- Broken-net Ts’un 破網皴 – curved lines cut through one another in a disordered way like a broken net.
- Ox-hair Ts’un 牛毛皴 – fine waving strokes with dry brushes
- Lotus Leaf Ts’un 荷葉皴 – the main stroke starts near the top of the hill and goes down the slope; branches come off from the main stroke like those of a lotus leaf.
- Loosened-rope Ts’un 解索皴 – a variation of the long hemp-fibre Ts’un with waving strokes like the fibre of a loosened rope
- Jumbled Firewood Ts’un 亂柴皴 – short strokes entangled together. This type of Ts’un goes well with the scene in a windy and stormy weather.
- Horse-tooth Ts’un 馬牙皴 – the strokes resembles horse teeth. This is done by making successive angular strokes with the brush held in a slanting position, alternating dragging and pressing it to produce the desired effect (Lai, 1983)
11 Rain onto the wall Ts’un 雨淋(牆)皴 – the brushstrokes look like water running down a wall.
12 Rain-drop Ts’un 雨點皴 or Sesame Ts’un 芝麻皴 – small dots of different ink tones are arranged in an orderly manner
Dated back to the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (五代十國)(907-979 CE), long hemp-fibres Ts’un was used by Dong Yuan (董源) and Juran (巨然). For further information and images, please visit my following webpage.
In the Sung Dynasty (宋朝)(960 -1279 CE), Mi Fu’s (米䒥) invented the brushstrokes of horizontal oval dots and people named these particular textural strokes as Mi-dots Ts’un. Fan Kuan (范寛) was famous for his Raindrop or Sesame Ts’un (雨點 or 芝麻皴), Xia Gui (夏珪), Ma Yuan (馬遠) and many others were excelled in Axe-chop Ts’un. For further information and images, please visit my following webpage.
During the Yuan Dynasty (元朝) (1271-1368), after the Mongol conquest of the Song Dynasty, many of the leading landscape painters were literati who did not want to serve the government and resorted into the remote mountains. Some put all their effort in painting and more textural strokes were developed. Yuan Dynasty is considered as the ‘Great Age of Chinese Landscape Painting.’ Huang Gongwang (黃公望) and Wu Zhen (吴鎮) continued to use Long-hemp fibre Ts’un elegantly reaching the peak of perfection. Wang Meng (王蒙) invented the Ox-hair Ts’un (牛毛皴) and Ni Zan (倪瓚) invented the Bent-ribbon Ts’un (折帶皴). For further information and images, please visit my following webpage.
There are about twelve to fifteen common textural strokes widely used by landscape painters since Yuan Dynasty The following two links mention about landscape painting of the Ming Dynasty (明朝)(1368-1644) and Qing Dynasty (清朝)(1644-1912) after the Yuan Dynasty.
The artist’s personality and expressive intent is thus specified by the “textural method” (cun fa 皴法) that he or she employs.
Mr Ip cherished the hope that these traditional painting skill would be passed on. I hope these twelve paintings will be widely studied and readers can benefit from them.
‘Study Nature, Love Nature, Stay Close to Nature. It will never fail you. ‘ Frank Lloyd Wright
Lai, T.C. (1983) Brushwork in Chinese Landscape Painting 山水皴法, Chung Hwa Book Company and Swindon Book Company, Hong Kong. ISBN-962-231-513-5
Mustard-seed Manual of Painting (芥子園畫傳)
Cahill, James (1976) Hills beyond a river – Chinese Painting of the Yuan Dynasty, 1279 – 1368 Weatherhill
Cahill, James (1978) Parting at the Shore – Chinese Painting of the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty, 1368 – 1580 Weatherhill
Cahill, James (1982) The Distant Mountains – Chinese Painting of the Late Ming Dynasty, 1570 – 1644 Weatherhill
Cahill, James (1982) The Compelling Image – Nature and Style in Seventeenth – Century Chinese Painting, Harvard University Press ISBN 0-674-15280-8
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