Li Yanshan (李研山) (given name: Yaochen 耀辰; courtesy name (字): Ju Duan 居端; art name: Yanshan 研山) was born on November 20, 1898 in an academic family in Xinhui County, Guangdong Province (廣東省新會縣). He first studied under a private teacher (私塾) and then in Guangfu Middle School (廣府中學). Li learned painting at an early age with a renowned artist Pan He (潘龢). His passion and talent in art emerged when he began his high school.
Li studied Law and graduated from Peking University (北京大學). During his stay in Beijing, he met many famous painters and collectors and his passion in art had even grown stronger. Li returned to Guangdong and began his career in civil services in Shantou (汕頭) and Guangzhou (廣州), and eventually became a principal judge of the municipal court of Guangzhou. Li was active in the Chinese painting circle promoting traditional fine art mainly literati painting (文人畫).
In 1928 he devoted all his time and energy on Chinese painting and Calligraphy. From 1932 to 1936, Li took up the position of the Headmaster of Guangzhou Municipal College of Art (廣州市美術學校) hiring many highly competent art teachers and making the school great. In 1936, Li left the Headmaster’s office and travelled widely in China experiencing many unique landscapes.
During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), Li took refuge in various cities including Hong Kong and Macau. In 1937 Li together with Li Fenggong (李鳳公) established the Feng Yan Studio (鳳研樓) in Hong Kong. As full time professional artists, both of them experienced financial hardship within half a year. Fortunately they were assisted by rich connoisseurs and collectors such as Lei Jun Shi (雷君軾) who owned Shen xing lou (深杏樓) (in Stanley, Hong Kong), and Huang Zijing (黃子靜) and Lu Xuanzhong (盧煊仲) in Macau. In June 1941 Li went back to Hong Kong from Macau. In December 1941 Hong Kong was taken over by the Japanese. In early 1942 Li went back to Macau and intended to settle down there. He named his studio Shi xi hu guan (石谿壺館). Unfortunately Macau also became very unsettled.
In 1943 Li went to Guangzhou Bay (廣州灣), a leased territory to France (法國殖民地) by Qing Government in China (清政府). Guangzhou Bay is now called Zhanjiang (湛江). There Li reunited with Chen Tinglan (陳汀蘭), his most favourite student. He was assisted financially by Chen Hanhua (陳翰華). Li lived there for about three years devoting his time to painting and study. After the Japanese surrendered in 1945, Li went back to his native town Xin Hui (新會). Later on Li returned to Guangzhou and re-established himself as a top ranking artist, participating in various art promotion activities and joint exhibitions.
In 1948 Li went back to Hong Kong and made his final home there. In March 1949 Li and a few others including Chang Daichien (張大千), Gao Jian-fu (高劍父), Ye Gongchao (葉恭綽), and Dengfen (鄧芬) held a joint exhibition in Hong Kong.
In November 1949 Li together with Chen Tinglan (陳汀蘭) and Wu Zifu (吴子復) organised a Joint Exhibition of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy in the Art Gallery of Hotel Cecil, Hong Kong (香港思豪酒店) (now Alexandra House (歷山大廈).
In 1950 Li exhibited with another eleven artists including Pu Xin She (溥心畬), Huang Junbi (黃君璧), and Chao Shao-ang (趙少昂). Finally in 1951, Li had his solo exhibition ‘Li Yan Shan Xin Mao Exhibition’ (李研山辛卯畫展) in the Art Gallery of Hotel Cecil, Hong Kong. This was his last solo exhibition.
After 1949 many serious collectors also came to Hong Kong with their precious collections. Chen Rentao (陳仁濤)(1906-1968) was one of them. Chen brought from Mainland China paintings of Dong Yuan (董源), Ju Ran (巨然) Zhu Da (朱耷), Shi Tao (石濤) and many others to Hong Kong. Chang Daichien (張大千) also brought his rich collections to Hong Kong. Li being a renowned connoisseur was often invited to view their collections, through which it also broadened his horizon.
In the summer of 1953 Li bought a simple house in Diamond Hill (鑽石山) with a garden and a well. Li named his house as ‘Home in the Kowloon Mountain’ (九龍山居) and made this his final home. Towards the last decade of his life, Li chose to lead a very low profiled life in his tranquil studio, spending most of his time painting. Li still kept in touch with his former students of Guangzhou Municipal College of Art.
In 1961 Li has his painting Pine Tree and Rock (松石圖) exhibited in Joint Exhibition by the faculty and students of the Fine Arts Department of Wah Kiu College.
On May 11, 1961 Li passed away peacefully after prolonged illness, aged 62. He was buried in Tsuen Wan Chinese Permanent Cemetery (荃灣永遠墳塲). On June 25 a memorial service was solemnly held in the Hall of Kowloon Chamber of Commerce (九龍總商會).
A few masterpieces of Li Yanshan
(1) Hermit in a Mountain with Streams (溪山高隱)
Inscriptions: 元氣淋漓障猶濕，到此境界即成無上菩提。蓋彼石濤方壺輩乃聲聞緣覺耳。此關亦不易透過。庚子初秋與汀蘭論及順手一揮, 並舉為贈。李研山九龍山居。印章: 九龍山居 (朱文橢圓印), 新會李居端鉨 (白文方印), 蘇井亭 (白文方印).
(2) Autumn Mountains (秋山圖)
釋文: 李硯山畫秋山圖袖珍卷 (隸書)
帡宇七兄督書, 癸巳 (1953) 中秋之夕 集金鰲橋室酒會 羅瑛 印章: 瑛(白文方印) , 叔重(朱文方印)
釋文: 癸巳 (1953) 元月廿四夕與帡宇七兄夜話戲寫秋山圖。七兄以為大癡復見，因舉為贈。李研山并記。印章: 李居端 (白文方印)，硯山 (朱文方印)
大癡 Da Chi is Huang Gongwang (黄公望) (1269-1354) who drew the famous painting ‘Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains‘ (Fuchun Shan ju tu 富春山居圖). This painting of Li was greatly inspired by Huang.
(3) Return from Qing Shan (Castle Peak)(青山歸途)
(4) Landscape with a Waterfall (水泉山水)
(5) Terraced field (梯田)
The Grave and the Memorial Service
The Proceedings of the Memorial Service of Li Yanshan were as follows:
Luo Shuzhong (羅叔重) (1898-1968) a renowned Chinese scholar, calligrapher and seal carver. He was active in the academic circle in Hong Kong.
Liu Tao (劉燾) or known as Ping Yu (帡宇), Qī shū- Uncle Seven (七叔)(1904-1985) was a native of Shunde, Guangdong (廣東順德). He was a renowned collector, connoisseur of Chinese fine art. He was good at Calligraphy, painting and seal carving. Liu was sociable and was active in the Fine Art circle.刘焘（1904-1985），字帡宇，别署老七，人称七叔，斋名为彭城友于堂、三余书斋、金鳌桥屋，广东顺德人。活跃于香港画坛，交游广阔，富收藏，著名画展策划人。http://www.xlysauc.com/auction5_det.php?id=69196&ccid=545&n=2787 (西泠拍卖网)
I would like to thank Mr Ip Chit Hoo for the information about Professor Li and helping me to trace his works.
I would like to thank the collectors of these paintings. They provided me with the images.
I would like to thank Mr K C Wong and Mr K C Chow for their kind advice and guidance.
陳冠文 (1987) 太乙樓所蔵近代名家画集 九華堂
Li Yun-ho 李允鉌 ( 1975) Li Yen-Shan – his paintings, calligraphy and poems 李研山晋書畫集 Oriental Culture Publishers, H.K. 東方文物圖籍出版社
鄧海超 (2011) A Passion for Tradition – The Art of Li Yanshan 抗心希古 李研山的藝術 , The Hong Kong Museum of Art, The Leisure and Cultural Services Department, Hong Kong. ISBN 978-962-215-228-1
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSUOEoqWL5k&feature=youtu.be – 26/07/2011 The Works of Li Yanshan by RTHK