Although the study of artists' manuscripts has a long tradition, there has been little research on manuscripts (images or text) by Chinese painters. Manuscripts were incomplete works in comparison to published books; they were also calligraphy arts when compared to printed texts. This talk starts with a journey of finding different editions of 18th Century Chinese Painter Hua Yan (华喦,1682-1756)’s anthology Ligou Ji (离垢集), including four different types of Hua’s manuscripts. The following is an overview of the major discoveries from those manuscripts, including some significant indications of his unknown early life. Those manuscripts provide a chance to critically reappraise the authenticity first formal biography of Hua Yan by an Hangzhou local gazetteer, Qiantang Xianzhi (钱塘县志,1718). This biography was published when Hua was only thirty-seven. It was unusual to write a biography for such a young man who was still alive in a government document at that time. This talk illustrates that the family of Prince Shuncheng, a Manchu loyal family, is the primary factor for this record. This family, who were friends of Hua, once had a high status at the Hangzhou banner, and they were also presupposed as a reader by editors of this gazetteer. On the one hand, the painter's manuscripts reveal his early social activities with the dignitary in Beijing, the capital; on the other hand, his experiences and this local gazetteer co-imply that the painter acted as a medium of communication between local officials, scholars, and members of the imperial family at the time.
Tianjia Lu is a PhD student in the School of Art and Humanities, China Academy of Art. His research interests include history and theory of ancient Chinese painting and print culture in early modern China. His current research has focused on the arts in early 18th-century China.