The Collector, the Connoisseur, and Late-Ming Sensibility

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The Collector, the Connoisseur, and Late-Ming SensibilityAuthor(s): Wai-Yee LiSource: T'oung Pao, Second Series, Vol. 81, Fasc. 4/5 (1995), pp. 269-302Published by: BRILLStable URL: .Accessed: 28/06/2014 19:04Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact .BRILL is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to T'oung Pao. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR, AND LATE-MING SENSIBILITYt BY WAI-YEE LI University of Pennsylvania In the Record of Famous Paintings Through the Ages (Li-tai ming hua chi tet*"e [847], hereafter LTMHC), the art historian and painter ChangYen-yuan W2 (ca. 815-after 875) justifies his pas- sion for collecting and restoring paintings: "Yet if I dc) not do that which is useless, how can I take pleasure in this life which does have a limit?''1 The phrase wu-i Q (useless, profitless) rings with echoes of the praise of non-action (wu-wei $$EA) and the "uses of uselessness" ( wuyung chih yung mS JM ) in Taoist writings. In the Chuang Tzu E f, uselessness represents disinterested self-contain- ment and the condition conducive to the freedom of the spirit (hsiao-yao Affi ). Only the category of the useless can establish the individual's freedom to define a private realm of significance, which is in its turn a response to mortality. This reference to the idea of "confronting mortality" may seem ironic, since in an earlier version on "The Fortunes of Paintings" ("Hsu hua chih hsing fei" i*2tM) Chang Yen-yuan describes how great imperial collections were assembled and destroyed. His own family's vast collection of calligraphy and paintings was ap- propriated by the emperor, and what remained was dispersed during his grandfather's exile, so that "only a few scrolls were left behind" (LTMHC, c.1.5-7). But if collections are perishable7 writ- ings about collections are deemed less so. Chang Yen-an ex- * I am grateful to Anthony G. Yu and Robert Hegel for their extremely he!lpful comments on this article. 1 Chang Yen-yuan, Li-tai ming-hua chi, ed. Ch'in Chung-wen XApS, Huang Miao-tzu Agf (Beijing:Jen-min mei-shu ch'u-pan-she, 1983 reprint of 1963 edi- tion), c. (abbreviation for chuan) 2.35. Li-tai ming-hua chi is dated to 847 in a sec- tion of the first chapter. These two lines are often quoted, often by way of de- fence of writing and literary creation. See, for instance, Hsiang Hung-tso's :gAigt (1798-1835) preface to his manuscript (Ping-kao hsu Sg@;); Ch'en Yln-k'o's FWAX} (1898-1969) preface to LiuJu-shih pieh-chuan SPtn2.Mll#. I am responsible for all the translations in this article. (C) EJ. Brill, Leiden, 1995 T'oung Pao LXXXI This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI presses this idea in the chapter "On Discerning, Collecting, Ac- quiring, Appreciating" ("Lun chien-shih shou-ts'ang kou-ch'iu yueh-wan" "kE iStiMS lRE): "There are those who collect with- out being able to discern, discern while failing to appreciate, ap- preciate but lack the skill to frame and mount, frame and mount yet neglect to select and rank- all these are faults common among collectors" (LTMHC, c.2.33). Insofar as selecting and rank- ing are precisely what Chang sets out to do in his work, writing may be seen as a logical extension of collecting. More impor- tantly, writing is a means of repossession. Both writing and collect- ing are bound up with the anticipation of loss and the attempt to overcome loss. Selection and ranking draw attention to the criteria of evalua- tion and raise questions of public and private values. Chang uses the language of spiritual communion, which has become by his time conventional in aesthetic appreciation: "My passion becomes ever more intense, it is almost like obsession (p'i S ) ... As for what may become a burden beside my body,2 there are no superfluous things (chang-wu At ). Only with calligraphy and paintings have I not yet forgotten my feelings (yu-wei wang-ch'ing Zj\\). Oblivi- ous, I forget words, looking on in joy" (LTMHC, c.2.35). The lan- guage here suggests an intensely personal experience. But the cat- egorization and ranking Chang proposes elsewhere in the book claim a general validity. When he writes about the value of works of art, he shows an implicit antiquarian bias. In his periodization of art history into early, middle, late antiquity, and recent times, he ranks what he considers the three greatest painters of the T'ang dynasty (Yu-ch'ih I-seng k4tZfE, Wu Tao-tzu %Af, Yen Li- pen 1gv *) with the masters of middle antiquity (such as Ku K'ai- chih Wt and Lu T'an-wei 1@g), while the lesser ones are com- pared to painters of late antiquity (LTMHC, c.2.31). (Painters from early antiquity being known only by name, Chang elevates the masters of middle antiquity to a preeminent position: com- parlson wth them is thus the highest compliment.) Moreover, Chang is quite aware of the market value of paintings and calligra- phy as commodities. He goes into details about prices (LTMHC, c.2.31), thus confirming the double life of works of art as com- modity and anti-commodity. 2 An allusion to Lao Tzu: "The reason I have great trouble is that I have a body. When I no longer have a body, what trouble have I?" See Tao-te ching, trans- lated by D.C. Lau (Hong Song: Chinese University Press, 1963), 181 a. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 271 Chang shows little unease in moving freely between the two as- pects of calligraphy and paintings as commodities and as objects of spiritual communion, partly because he is by then more or less unburdened of his family's vast collection. The anxiety of posses- sion is voiced instead by the emperor, who justifies his appropria- tion of Chang's family collection with customary moral homily: "Such (calligraphy and paintings) are treasures of all times and the prizes of the state. I gaze at them (yii-mu 9 H, literally, therein I lodge my eyes [temporarily]) in the leisure from imperial audi- ences - thus do I know that the wonders of paintings correspond to the works of Creation. My wish is for vigilant moral self-exami- nation (sheng-kung 'J) to come from the observation of images (kuan-hsiang R-*), this is no mere indulgence in love of wonders and curiosities (hao-ch'i ztW) and taking wanton pleasure in things (wan-wu it) " (LTMHC, c. 1.1I 1) . The emperor's pseudo-apology, just as much as Chang Yen- yuan's account of his passion, defines recurrent themes in the Chinese discourse on objects and ownership. First, the emperor identifies himself with the polity to justify the confiscation of his subject's property. As national treasures such works of art should become part of the imperial collection. The emperor thereby ad- dresses the social and political meanings of ownership. The issue of possessions proper to a person's estate in this world is a major concern, and partly accounts for warnings against excess and dis- play, for "the accumulation of things invites jealousy" (chi-wu chao- tU ~1~itBf).3 To own much and to flaunt wealth is often, at least potentially, a political liability.4 Second, to gaze ("lodge one's eyes temporarily") suggests measured, almost detached, appreciation and restfulness of spirit, so much so that aesthetic contemplation 3 That is, the jealousy of other people, in some cases the ruler, and/or the jealousy of heaven. Craig Clunas discusses the status of sumptuary laws and the anxieties about extravagance, ostentation, and the transgression of social bounda- ries in the late Ming in his original and informative study, Superfluous Things: Ma- terial Culture and Social Status in Early Modern China (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991), 141-165. 4The Ming writer Tien 1-heng FRR* (1524-1574?) devotes the entire chiian 35 of his book of "random notes" (pi-chi VE ) to accounts of ministers who over- reached themselves, their corruption presumably evident from their vast re- sources. The entry on Yen Sung Rt (1480-1565, Grand Secretary, 1542-1562) reads like a detailed inventory of his possessions. Liu-ch 'ing jih-cha W9 E Th, pref- aced dated 1573, Kua-ti an ts'an0 Ming-Ch'ing chang-ku ts'ung-k'an edition, 3 vols. (Shanghai: Sharnghai ku-chi ch'u-pan-she, 1982), c.35.1107-1136. Cf. Clunas, 15 7-158. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI shades easily into political education and moral self-cultivation, which in its turn supposedly contributes to the harmonious inte- gration of self and world. The language of balance, moderation, and spiritual cultivation recurs in the discourse on objects and possession. It signifies an attitude of "simultaneous attachment and detachment" (pu-chi pu-li T 'TN), which provides for inten- sity of experience while keeping the potential dangers of intensity at bay. Third, the proleptic denial of indulgence and wanton pleasure suggests the latent force of such allegations. When Chang writes about "the fortunes of paintings", the connection between dynastic decline and a ruler's excessive interest in art and/or collecting is implied. The vast collection of Emperor Yuan of Liang 7Wt (r. 552-555), who ruled toward the end of the Liang dynasty (502-557), was burnt by the rebel Hou Ching I1 e. When another crisis overtook the country and Emperor Yulan had to burn whatever remained of the imperial collection, he almost threw himself into the conflagration and was only restrained from doing so by his consorts. The emperor's impulse to perish with his collection seems to unveil in the most dramatic fashion one of the reasons behind the doom looming over himself, his collection, and the country. Chang Yen-yiian also describes how Emperor Yang of Sui PMV (r. 605-618), often represented as a stereotypi- cal pleasure-loving last emperor, brought his collection along dur- ing his pleasure tour to Yang-chou. When the boat containing his prize possessions sank, we are given to understand that it might have been a providential warning against excessive attachment to objects.5 The idea that "taking pleasure in things undermines the 5 The epitome of the pleasure-loving last emperor surrounded by superfluous things is realized some three centuries after Chang Yen-yuian in the person of Em- peror Hui-tsung of Sung 5/ (r. 1101-1126). Himself a gifted painter and callig- rapher, Emperor Hui-tsung amassed an enormous collection of art treasures, part of which was recorded in the Drawings and Lists of all the Antiquities Stored in the Hsiian-ho Palace (Hsiian-ho po-ku tu-lu 'iiDf*tA ). Probably completed in 1123, this is a catalogue of the forms and inscriptions of some 840 bronzes in the impe- rial collection. The frequent reprints of this book in the late Ming testifies to its importance in that period. (Clunas discusses the frequent reprints of the great texts of Sung archaeology and antiquarian studies in the late Ming in Superfluous Things, 97.) The Ming writer Ho Liang-chuin fJR , in a volume of "random notes" dated 1569, praises the book for transmitting knowledge about institutions and rites of the Three Dynasties. At the same time he feels the need to defend the emperor's labor as a collector: "For the emperor is a lover of antiquity, and could not escape the pitfall of 'taking pleasure in things'. But the real cause of his disastrous northern captivity (the enmperor was taken captive by the Chin tribe This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COI T SCTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & >-MING SENSIBILI 273 will" ( wan-wu sang-chih iut&,> ) and the injunction "against servi- tude to ears and eyes" (pu-i erh-mu T;QF g ) first appear in one of the canonical Confucian classics, the Documents (Shu ching**).6 Against such excesses the Confucian philosopher urges a proper balance attained through "taking pleasure in things and thereby accommodatingfeelings" (wan-wushih-ch'ingisthi).7 in the north) was his misplaced trust in the wrong people. As T'ung and Ts'ai took control over the government, unrest erupted in the empire. Thus the origin of calamity was actually not in this (i.e., Emperor Hui-tsung's interest in collect- ing and connoisseurship)." Ssu-yu-chai ts'ung-shuo gEti;WtS (Beijing: Chung-hua shu-chu, 1959), 256. 6 Shu-ching tupen S*; (Taipei: Cheng-wen shu-chu 1974), c.4. 125 ("Book of Chou" 1|3, "Lu-ao" St). The context is the Lord of Shao's petition to King Wu of Chou (r. 1122-1115 B.C.) that the latter should refuse certain tributes from a tribe to the west of China. The argument is based on a distinction between i-wu At7 (extraordinary things) and yung-wu St (useful things) and the warning against the baleful consequences of enjoying the former. The Documents is a col- lection of documents supposedly from the time of the legendary emperor Yao (3rd millennium B.C.) to the early Chou (1111-249 B.C.). Most modern scholars accept only the Chou documents as authentic; the present version contains for- geries from the Snd to Sth century. One Ch'ing writer, Yao Chi-heng tKlgSi:, charges that the "Lu Ao" chapter comes from the ancient script tradition of the Documents and is a forgery; he then maintains that appreciating calligraphy and painting should not in any case be mistaken as instances of "taking pleasures in things": "According to that passage [from the Documents], 'using people for one's pleasure undermines one's virtue' (wanjen sang-teiGA(e) and 'taking pleasure in things undermines the will'. The word 'things' is parallel with 'people' and actually refers to dogs, horses, and the like. As posterity has mistaken calligraphy, paintings, and ancient vessels for play- things (orinstances of 'takingpleasure in things', wan-wugGt), people have used these words [from the Documents] to warn each other. Little do they know that Fu-hsi drawing the hexagrams is the beginning of calligraphy; and the sage- king Shun's [creation of] the twelve plates is the beginning of painting" ( Calligra- phy and Paintings in the Family Collection of Love of Antiquity Hall [Hao-ku T'ang chia- ts'angshu-hua chiSttSiXt, preface dated 1679],, in Mei-shu ts'ung-shu gLt, hereafter MSTS [Shanghai: 19283, 3.8.1). It is interesting to note thatYao justifUles collecting and connoisseurship as textual learning (hsiao-hsueh SJX5 ) and the transmission of knowledge about ancient rites and institlltions. "This is totally different from the literary man's (ts'aijen wen-shih tA 9;.Ir:) exercises in taste and appreciation (feng-liu chien-shang ,et ). As for the rich and greedy ... theirs is mere love of goods and commodities (hao-huo SS ). It does not even deserve to be mentioned" (la). Writing at the end of the seventeenth century, Yao might have felt the need to distinguish his project from its late-Ming counterparts, which were by then often crit:icized as mere frivolity, vain "exercises in taste and appreciation". 7 Chu Hsi's tt (1130-1200) gloss to the line "[to let your spirit] roam freely among the arts" (yuyu-i S+g ) from the Analects (7.6), in Ssu-shu chi-chu E3;t&, This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI The anxieties about things are also voiced with special urgency in early Taoist writings. In the Chuang Tzu, metaphors of mastery and control dominate the discourse on possession. "For the one who possesses a state possesses a great thing. The possessor of a great thing cannot be treated as a mere thing. To use things and not be used as things (literally, to "to thing and not be thinged", wu erh pu-wu $tfff4f t) - hence "the capacity to treat things as mere things (ku-neng wu-wu #.&Btfo )".8 Inward detachment is necessary for maintaining this relationship of mastery and control (i-wu &e), or one is reduced to the status of mere things, in one's turn mastered and controlled by that which one is supposed to possess or own (i-yii-wu TtR). However, this cautionary note in Taoist writings has to be read against stories about the "concentration of the spirit" (ning-shen O$ ) .9 The undivided mind or will totally ab- sorbed in a certain activity or the contemplation of an object is a form of spiritual cultivation conducive to final detachment and freedom, but sometimes the line between this form of spiritual ex- ercise and obsessive devotion to objects can be thin indeed. This returns us to Chang Yen-yuan's account of his passion: his intense relationship with calligraphy and paintings is the most palpable kind of freedom available to him; whereas the emperor's self-justi- fication defines possession in the public realm by drawing atten- tion to its moral and socio-political meaning, Chang Yen-yuan dwells on the private, excessive, and whimsical aspects of posses- Chu Hsi ed. (Taipei: Shih-chieh shu-chui, 1990), Lun yii, c.4.42. The word yu a suggests roaming, wandering, playing, freedom of movement and of spirit. These lines from the Analects, "Set your mind on the Way (chih-yii-tao i+ifA), be estab- lished in virtue (chii-yii-te 4t), be anchored in humanity (i-yii-jen {f3;f ), and let your spirit roam freely among the arts", are often quoted in texts on connoisseurship. Chan Ching-feng VAK (chii-jen, 1567), for instance, cites them at the beginning of "Miscellaneous Comments on the Hsiuan-ho Discussions on Paintings" (Hsiian-ho lun-hua chi-p'ing PWid4, collected in MSTS, 3.8.1), and reiterates the basically Taoist position that the arts (i M) is potentially continues with the Way. 8 Kuo Ch'ing-fan V*, Chuang Tzu chi-shih : ed. Wang Hsiao-yi FEt (Beijing: Chung-hua shu-chui, 1982), chapter 11, 2: 394. 9 The context of this phrase is the story of a hunchback catching cicadas with consummate skill. "He keeps his will undivided, that is how he concentrates his spirit" (yung-chih pu-fen nai ning yii shen , Chuang-tzu chi-shih, chap- ter 19, 3: 641. In his complete forgetfulness of everything other than cicada wings the hunchback attains union with the Tao. The account is one of the many "knack stories" (the term is A.C. Graham's) in the book. Typically enough, these stories which may possibly serve as analogies for aesthetic creation and apprecia- tion are deliberately mundane. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 275 sion - the freedom it affords, the boundaries of selfhood it ques- tions, its intimate relationship with loss, memory, and writing. Both Chang Yen-yuian's and the emperor's accounts define some of the major issues that I shall address in regard to the discourse on ownership, collecting, and connoisseurship in the late Ming. To assemble a world Writing toward the end of the T'ang dynasty, Chang Yen-yuan might have intimated the connection between collecting, con- noisseurship, and "the sense of an ending". In the late Ming (whose time frame is conventionally given as mid-sixteenth cen- tury to the fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644), this connection is sometimes emphasized in retrospective soul-searching or in nega- tive judgments of that period from the Ch'ing dynasty. The fig- ures of the collector and the connoisseur epitomize certain as- pects of late-Ming literati sensibility: a heightened awareness and conscious dramatization of nuances of perception, experience, and expression; a concern for defining the boundaries of the public and the private selves; an aesthetics of excess paradoxically coexisting with attention to order and decorum. In other words, metaphors of collecting and connoisseurship extend beyond the "discourse on things", and are traceable in the literati's accounts of their experience and judgment in other spheres (for instance, their self-perceptions, their attitudes toward nature and toward women). The late Ming saw a proliferation of writings on collect- ing and connoisseurship, and the issues raised earlier in connec- tion with Chang Yen-yuan persisted (Chang is often quoted in these writingsl), sometimes with new implications.'1 There are two distinctive categories in the late Ming-discourse 10 For example, Wen Chen-heng -Z; e (1586-1644), Treatise on Superfluous Things (Chang wu chih 4IJ, collected in MSTS, 3.9.3-4), c.5.1a; T'u Lung %k (1542-1605), Treatise on Paintings (Hua chien 1, collected in MSTS, 1.6.2), la. l The Dutch sinologist Robert van Gulik refers to these compilations as "guide-books for the scholar of elegant taste. Such books describe the interior in which the refined lover of art an-d literature likes to live". Chinese Pictorial Art as Viewed by the Connoisseur, Serie Orientale Roma 19 (Rome, 1958), 51. The passage is quoted in Clunas, Superfluous Things, 9. Clunas bases his study of the social meaning of consumption on "books on things" (the literature of Ming connoisseuLrship), and argues that the Ming discourse on objects functions to chart social distinctions, at a time when the broader distribution of increased wealth threatened social boundaries. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI on objects. One category includes books on the art of living and rules of style and taste. By the late Ming, there were manuals and treatises on virtually every object in the milieu of the elite culture - ranging from musical instruments, fans, paper, ink, inkstones, brushes, chess, seals, wine, wine bottles, rocks, tea, incense, flow- ers, vases, canes, swords, to more standard items such as calligra- phy, paintings, and antiques. The other category consists of "ran- dom notes" (pi-chi -E ) and "informal essays" (hsiao-p'in '1' ) personal accounts of the possession and the experience of ob- jects. Whereas the former deals with objects in terms of genres and species, the latter treats objects as particular and unique. Of these two kinds of writings the first is more explicitly a cul- tural practice in the public realm. With an underlying emphasis on the social and political meaning of consumption, these manu- als and treatises often contain precise, meticulous descriptions, and sometimes read like practical guides to the choice and ar- rangement of the details of daily living. The mood is normative, hence the recurrence of words like ching R, (canon, classic), shih _T (history), p'u Al (catalogue, genealogy), lu 0 (record, history), or chihki (record, treatise) in the titles. These words indicate au- thority: they buttress the claim of these works to define the essen- tial attributes and cultural meanings of the thing in question. In addition, such words suggest that the object described and the ac- count thereof have important political, moral, and metaphysical implications. The keywords in these treatises are i t (suitable), hsii - (neces- sary), k'o iPT (allowable), or yii a (desirable), i.e., words indicating decorum and appropriateness, and their opposites, chi - or pu-k'o T4i5 (avoid, must not; thus taboo). Contrary to what one may ex- pect of writings regarding taste and discernment, the tone is often terse and impersonal, as if the author were proclaiming uni- versally applicable rules of taste. In the Treatise on Superfluous Things,12 for example, Wen Chen-heng (1586-1644) writes that "hanging scrolls are appropriate for a study with high ceilings. Only one should be put up. To hang scrolls on two walls or to parallel them on right and left is most vulgar (su f6 )" (c.10.1b). Wen discusses vases: "Copper vases are for spring and summer, porcelain ones for autumn and winter. Big ones are suitable for the hall, small ones for the study. Copper and china vases are 12Wen's treatise is one of the texts Clunas focuses on in Superfluous Things. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 277 prized, gold and silver ones are held in low esteem. Avoid (chi) rings [on vases], avoid paired vases. The flowers [in vases] should be sparse and graceful, they should not be crowded and mixed" (c.10.2a). The ideal space defined by the rule of decorum pro- vides for regular, rhythmic changes: Wen Chen-heng, for exam- ples, goes into great detail on the appropriate subject matter of paintings to be hung in the study for different months and festi- vals.'3 These injunctions are sometimes meticulous in the ex- treme. T'u Lung, in his Treatise on the Objects of Daily Living (Ch'i- chii ch'i-fu chien LEWrAIKA, collected in MSTS, 2.9.3), for instance, gives exact descriptions of measurements, colors, and materials when he describes the proper bed (la). The normative bent in these writings purports to aestheticize the details of daily living, the boundaries between nature and art or artifice being effaced in the process. Nature imitates art in this world where the mood of aesthetic contemplation is pervasive. T'u Lung writes about p'en-tsai UR (miniature versions of trees and plants in pots): "Most ancient and elegant of all are [trees like] the pines of T'ien-mu. They are about one ch'ih in height and an arm's size in girth, the needles are short and dense. They may be knotted and trained to embody the slanting bent and tortuous curves of Ma Yuan Y,1 (active 1190-after 1225), the bare tops and forceful reach of Kuo Hsi WI,k (after 1000 to ca. 1090), the repose and layering of Liu Sung-nien PITE (Southern Sung), the sweeping, soaring openness of Sheng Tzu-chao AT (Yuan) .14 The purpose of categorizing and ranking things is to distill defi- nitions of aesthetic or aestheticized objects with which the literatus assembles his world. Although these definitions appear to be public, and the tone of some treatises is precise and imper- sonal, there are also idiosyncratic variations. This is due in part to the fact that categorizing and ranking, as attitudes of mind, have wide applications, and extend to more personal feelings and ac- tivities. The appropriate moods, inclinations, poses, settings, and paraphernalia of beautiful women, for example, are sometimes 13 Chang-wu chih, c.5.l la. The idea of matching objects and activities with sea- sonal changes and festivals dates back to the chapter 'Yfieh ling" > e in the Rites (Li chi rE, ca. 4th to 3rd cent. B.C.) and the Lii-shih ch'un-ch'iu M384k (ca. 3rd cent. B.C.). 14 T'u Lung, Treatise on the Pure Objects of the Mountain Study (Shan-chai chz'ing- kung chien [UWAi, collected in MSTS, 2.9.3), 2b. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI systematically presented and judged, half seriously and half in jest, as both general truth and personal statement.15 Of course an en- tire poetic tradition contributes to this presentation of women as aesthetic objects. Connoisseurly classification of feminine charms in late-Ming writings aspires to be systematic and inclusive, so that a beautiful woman's ennui, whims, or melancholy are all duly cat- egorized and appraised.16 The injunction of appropriateness is linked to the insistence on the aesthetic image in accounts of the vatious actinties of the cul- tural elite. Thus Wu Ts'ung-hsien %ttt- (ca. late 16th to mid-17th cent.) emphasizes the contexts of reading with all the self-con- sciousness of framing and ordering elements in a painting: "His- tory should be read in the reflection of snow to bring brightness to the dark mirror (history is often compared to a mirror); phi- losophy should be read with the moon as companion to send one's spirit soaring; Buddhist sutras should be read facing a beau- tiful woman to avoid falling into emptiness ...".17 The rule of deco- rum is extended to such unlikely activities as immoderate drink- ing. Yuan Hung-tao aSA (1568-1610) writes in the Policies of Drsinking (Shang cheng fWA*): "There are rules of decorum in intoxi- cation. Intoxication among flowers is appropriate for the day, so that one can receive its light; intoxication in snow is appropriate for the night, so that one can merge with its purity; intoxicated in joy one should sing to bring about harmonious tranquillity; in- toxicated at parting one should hit the brass plate to elevate one's spirit''.18 In all these cases action is transformed into image: the presumed pleasure afforded by performing an action in pre- scribed ways is derived at least in part from the sense that one thereby becomes part of a beautiful picture. One may say that the connoisseurly enjoyment of things extends to the enjoyment of being oneself perceived as an aesthetic image. 15 For example, the essay "On Beautiful Women" ("T'an meijen" A) in Liu Ta-chieh XIjX,*ss ed., Ming-jen hsiao-p'in chi R'J'wnt (Shanghai: Pei-hsin shu-chu, 1934), 1-9. The essay, of unknown authorship, is taken from Wei Yung 78 (fl. ca. late 1 6th to early 1 7th. cellt.) ed., Secrets Inside the Pillow ( Chen chung mi liNk,@$lE ) . 16 See "On Beautiful Women", 3-5. 17 Wu Ts'ung-hsien, "Five entries on pleasures that gladden the heart" ("Shang-hsin lo-shih wu-tse" tSg>\$ERJ ), in Chu Chien-hsin @IJ,, Wan-Ming hsiao+'in hsuan-chu ".,ffl'JnnZAE (Taipei: Shang-wu yin-shu kuan, 1964), 17. 18Yuan Hung-tao, Yuan Hung-tao chi chien-chiao atAth1s, Ch'ien Po-ch'eng ASbM; ed. (Shanghai: Shanghai ku-chi ch'u-pan-she, 1981), 2: 1416. However, Yuan Hung-tao mentions several times that he is not a drinker and is more inter- ested in tea, see, for instance, Yuan Hung-tao chi chien-chao, 1: 420. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 279 In some ways the notion of appropriateness encompasses both order and disorder: rules of taste may be flouted in a tasteful manner. There is taxonomy, correspondences, regularity, but at the same time provisions are made for whimsicality and eccentric- ity. A good example is the Eight Discourses on the Respect for Life (Tsun-sheng pa-chien tAmA, 1591) by Kao Lien - (fl. ca. late 16th cent.). The book is a curious amalgam of moral homily, per- sonal reflections, practical (including culinary and medical) ad- vice. In the "Discourse on living in harmony with the Four Sea- sons", Kao maps the correspondences between the seasons, the months, and the various organs, and provides a detailed guide to exercises, breathing discipline, and meditation techniques appro- priate to each phase of the year. However, at the end of each sec- tion he also dwells on the appropriate "whimsical things" (i-shih A*) and highly idiosyncratic instances of "what Master Kao de- lights in" (Kao-tzu yu-shang ,lAi- ) for each season. These apparent incongruities point to basic tensions in the late- Ming sensibility. One of the overarching concerns in writings from this period is how to valorize passion and the freedom of subjective projection without undermining the socio-political or- der and the equilibrium of the self. The manuals and treatises we are considering are thus governed by a dual focus - the object be- comes the agent for both the assertion of individuality and inte- gration into the elite culture; both withdrawal from and participa- tion in the socio-political realm. Shen Ch'un-tse's ~tt (a con- temporary of the author Wen Chen-heng) preface to the Treatise on Superfluous Things brings to light some of these issues: To extol and draw attention to the beauties of nature, to discrimi- nate and write on wine and tea, to collect and arrange things such as paintings, books, drinking vessels, or cauldrons - for the world these are idle activities, for the body, superfluous things. And yet those who rank and appraise people (p'in-jen nhA) use these things to measure taste, talent, and sensibility. Why should this be so? To gather the pure and wondrous air of past and present in front of my eyes and ears so that I can breathe it; to spread the small and trivial things of heaven and earth on mat and table so that they await my direction; to hold the vessel which in my daily existence provides neither warmth against the cold nor sustenance in hunger, and yet revere it more than precious jade and a thousand pieces of gold - to do all these is to find a proper abode for my ardent, restless spirit. Unless one has true taste, true talent, and true sensibility to measure up to this [role], the manner [of appreciation] is quite different. In recent times, some wealthy people, together with some of their vulgar and obtuse associates, congratulate themselves on their This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI connoisseurship (hao-shih 1f3#). Whenever they "appreciate and dis- criminate" (shang-chien At), they issue only commonplaces, and whatever enters their hands is roughly handled. Indulging in exag- gerated display of gleeful rubbing or protective fondling, the af- front and defilement they bring about is indeed extreme. As a re- sult, the gentlemen of true taste, true talent, true sensibility warn each other not to speak of refinement and culture (feng-ya AS). Alas, this (abstinence) too is excessive.19 Here metaphors of internalization (breathing, inhaling, hu-hsi *sR) and mastery ("await my direction", t'ing wo chih-hui MfMtN) suggest that it is precisely idle activities (hsien-shih M* ) and super- fluous things (chang-wu At ) which best define the freedom of the spirit, insofar as apparently useless things are whimsically in- vested with the greatest value. Self-definition is attained through the process of assembling and ordering things. Yet the expecta- tion of being appraised and ranked according to one's taste and sensibility probably encourages conformity to prescribed codes (even non-conformity is duly encoded) of behavior rather than freedom and defiance.20 In other words, although the relation- ship with things is supposed to articulate the individual's differ- ence, it also defines a group identity, and writing about objects is a way for the cultural elite to set itself apart.2' The contradiction between these two aspects is replayed on another level as the ten- sion between spontaneity and its mannerisms and presumed ef- fect, between being genuine and appearing genuine. This will be- come more apparent when we turn later to other kinds of writings about things, chiefly the genre of "informal essays", which is domi- nated by the rhetoric of spontaneity, immediacy, and intense feel- ings. The discourse on the unique appreciation of the world of objects is thus part of a self-conscious rhetoric of spontaneity, im- mediacy, and intense feelings, even though these qualities are supposedly opposed to self-consciousness and rhetoricity. Toward the end of the preface, Shen Ch'un-tse constructs or records a dialogue in which he asks the author why he bothers to 19 Chang-wu chih, c.l.l. 20 It is interesting to note that some of the earliest accounts of obsessive devo- tion to an object or an activity appear in the Shih-shuo hsin-yii (New Accounts in Tales of the World Jft&JiM ) compiled by Liu I-ch'ing IJA (403-444), a fifth-cen- tury work which sets out to define and evaluate styles of personality. 21 This is one of the main arguments in Clunas' study. Shen describes Wen's treatise as indeed "a felicitous event among our ranks (wu-tang ) ", suggesting thereby that a group identity is confirmed through Wen's treatise. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 281 write, considering the latter's distinguished lineage (Wen Chen- heng is the great grandson of the famous fifteenth century painter-calligrapher-poet-scholar Wen Cheng-ming t Be- sides, since he lives in this world of objects anyway, is not writing about it superfluous (to-shih +*)? To this Wen Chen-heng replies, "What I fear is that as the minds and the hands of the people of Wu (the Wen family's "sphere of influence", the Su-chou area) change from one day to the next, the beginning foundation (lan- shang i44) of what you call trivial, idle activities or superfluous things can perhaps no longer be known in the future. This work is just meant to prevent this". Shen continues, "This is true! The one line on 'pruning the elaborate and eliminating the extravagant' (shan-fan ch'ii-she J suffices to be preface of this book". (This phrase has appeared earlier in Shen's preface when he sum- marized the content of Wen's treatise, "beneath the general play- fulness and lightness of touch, there is the single thrust of the meaning of pruning the elaborate and eliminating the extrava- gant".) The normative intent is thus linked to a sense of entitle- ment. Living in this inherited world of objects, the author deems himself privy to its higher meaning of simple, austere elegance and therefore called upon to set standards and forestall excesses. The idea that simplicity and restraint define good taste recurs in the late-Ming literature of connoisseurship. Faced with a choice between simplicity and the practice of the ancients, Wen opts for the former, although the ancients are often considered embodi- ments of the standards of taste. Wen writes, "The ancients set much store by the practice of writing and painting on the walls (t'-pi E). But for now, even if it is Ku [K'ai-chih] and Lu [T'an- wei] who are creating forms and colors, or Chung [Yao N] and Wang [Hsi-chih 3E&:] who are wetting their brushes [for calligra- phy], nothing can be as good as plain white walls" (c.1.5a). Al- though the world defined by the literature on rules of taste is nothing if not based on aesthetics and artifice, the emphasis on simplicity is supposed to establish (or restore) the continuum of nature and culture. Thus Wen writes on living quarters (shih-lu @1t): "The best is to live among mountains and waters; next to that is to live in a village; next to that is to live in the outskirts of a city" ( City dwellers, deprived of the preconditions of har- monious integration with nature, should nevertheless aspire to el- egant simplicity reminiscent of the subtle enjoyment of nature. T'u Lung evokes these ideas when he writes about the ideal set- This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI ting for playing the zither (ch'in 3): "The zither should be played in the midst of pine wind and rustling streams, for all three are sounds of nature (tzu-jan chih sheng n P2 ), it is fitting that they should be grouped together" (Treatise on the Zither [Ch'in chien 3], collected in MSTS 1.6.2,5a).22 The colors, forms, and sensa- tions of this world should be delicate, subtle, and distant (tan- yuan &A: thus T'u Lung recommends for the zither-player flow- ers of light shades and faint fragrance, unobtrusive incense, and tea (rather than wine). There seems to be an implicit assumption that perspicacious distinctions of what is subtle or even bland to begin with - for example, water23 - amounts to the best test for the critical faculties. More generally, the ascetic imperative in the discourse on things shows how the desire to savor the intensity of pleasure is matched by the concern with maintaining the equilib- rium of the self. True freedom consists in indulging in pleasure and at the same time training the mind and spirit in inward de- tachment, which is in turn based on a fine distinction between pleasure and the attitude toward pleasure. In terms of the socio- political order, equilibrium is preserved by the individual partici- pating in the relations of life while privately cultivating the inner- most and deepest personal existence. Books about things in the late Ming often claim a reclusive in- tent, for devotion to objects without apparent socio-political meaning implies withdrawal from the public realm. However, as suggested earlier, the discourse on objects and ownership is also an implicit statement of solidarity in tastes and sensibilities of the cultural elite,24 which partly overlaps with the group wielding eco- 22 It is de rigueur for a person of refinement to hang a zither on the wall, pref- erably an ancient one (failing that, a new one would do), no matter whether one can play the zither or not. T'u Lung quotes the fifth century poet T'ao Yuian- ming: "So long as one feels the essence of the zither, / Why bother about the notes on the strings?" (Treatise on the Zither, la). 23 The considerable literature on tea devotes a lot of attention to the water used for brewing tea. See for instance, Yuian Hung-tao, Yuan Hung-tao chi chien- chiao, 1: 194-195, 1: 420; Chang Tai Iffl (1597-1679?), Dream Memories of T'ao-an; In Quest of Dreams at West Lake (T'ao-an meng-i, Hsi-hu meng-hsiin Pi)A#,MV4), ed. Ma Hsing-jungMUM (Shang-hai: Shang-hai ku-chi ch'u-pan-she, 1982), 23-25. One of the courtesy names of Li Jih-hua - H , painter of some note who has writ- ten extensively on connoisseurship, is "Savoring Water Studio" ("Wei shui hsfian" *Af). 24 Gatherings for the appreciation of things (ch 'ing-wan hui iAii* ), where col- lectors and connoisseurs show their possessions to fellow initiates, constitute one of the concrete manifestations of this solidarity. Chang Mou-shih 4%t describes This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILIIY 283 nomic and political power. This double-edged function is perhaps best captured in Yuan Hung-tao's preface to History of Vases (P'ing shih t, by implication a treatise on flower arrangement), where he describes his interest in the subject as an index to his liminal mode of existence in this world - the state of being between en- gagement and withdrawal. For a proper recluse would have ban- ished wordly ties and enjoyed his freedom in the world of nature. "I have alway> aspired to that state without insisting on it. Fortu- nately I remain between being hidden and being seen. Staying out of what can potentially become the ground of competition and contention, I would have liked to slant my cap on high cliffs and wash my cap-tassels in running streams, yet I am tied down by a lowly official position. Only in cultivating flowers and bamboo can I enjoy myselfs'. Even that modest pleasure, however, is thwarted by constant changes of residence, and a damp, narrow backyard. Yuan Hung-tao thus turns to a more convenient enjoyment of flowers in vases, but he is aware of this position as a compromise, for he believes that true connoisseurship is obsessive: Chi K'ang % and his metalwork, Wu Tzu Xtf and his horses, Lu Yu M and his tea, Mi Fu Si! and his rocks, Ni Tsan @3 and his cleanliness - in all these cases they use their obsessions to project their lofty, boundless, unrestrained spirit. When I look around me, those with insipid words and repelling faces are all people without obsessions. Those who are genuinely obsessed sink into and are overwhelmed by their obsessions. It is a matter of life and death for them, they have no time to spare for matters such as money, serv- ants, official positions, or trade! ... In the days of old, for those ob- sessed with flowers ... when a flower is about to bloom, they would move their pillow and carry their blanket to sleep underneath it, in order to observe and appreciate the flower from its subtle begin- ning to its full bloom, only when it withers and falls will they leave ... Smelling the leaves they can tell the size of the flowers, looking at the root they can see the color of the blooms. This is called a true love of flowers or true connoisseurship ... As for my manner of keep- ing flowers, it merely serves to dispel the sadness of a quiet, solitary existence. I fall short of any genuine love for flowers. Should it be otherwise I would have become an inhabitant of the Peach Blossom Cavern, why would I still be an official in the dusty world of men!25 one such meeting attended by the four great families of the Wu area in Pure and Secret Collections (Ch'ing-mi ts'ang8gii,, collected in MSTS, 1.8.4), c.B.lSa-12b. 25 Yuan Hung-tao, Yuan Hung-tao chi chien-chao, 1: 826. "Peach Blossom Cav- ern" is an allusion to the fifth century poet T'ao Yuan-ming's famous essay, "The Peach Blossom Spring", which describes a world free of conflicts removed spa- tially and temporally from society. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI Although Yuan Hung-tao modestly disclaims "true connois- seurship" (chen chien-shang JABR), he obviously harbors little doubt that his pleasure is as genuine as his judgment is authorita- tive. His keen yet disinterested appreciation, reminiscent of the emperor's claim to "lodge his eyes [in paintings] in the leisure from imperial audiences" in the passage quoted earlier from the Records of Famous Paintings Through the Ages, is thus the counterpart cf his mode of being between engagement in and withdrawal from the public realm. The idea of participating in the social relations of life and at the same time transcending them through the connoisseurly en- joyment of things informs the figure of the so-called "mountain person" (shan-jen S JTHE COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 285 centers in the lower Yangtze area. One comes across apparently contradictory formulations in late-Ming writings, such as "becom- ing a recluse through an official position" (li-yin jil) or "becom- ing a recluse through sensual pleasures" (se-yin F. The cogency of the saying that "the lesser recluse hides in the mountains and rivers, the greater recluse hides in the court and the city" (hsiao- yin yin shan-tse, ta-yin yin ch'ao-shih 'i'iZAjffXt AFg) thus rests on the distinction between "hiding one's traces" (yin-chi i; fi) and "hiding one's heart" (yin-hsin L )727 The latter refers to inward detachment (tan 8k ), tranquility (cching f), "contentment and the acceptance of the nature of things" (an-fen sui-yiian RSf30), "har- mony in accommodating one's nature and feelings" (yiieh-ch'ing shih-hsing k,[,F9jt).28 These are precisely the commonplaces which urge restraint and disinterestedness as the proper way to appreciate the world of objects. The "mountain person" shows his kinship with the collector and the connoisseur by assembling or inventing a sphere of exist- ence separate from yet continuous with ordinary life. The figure of the "mountain person" has been charged with hypocrisy and bad faith;29 by traversing boundaries, he shows nevertheless how the late-Ming sensibility delights in the liminal state and perceives it as a source of creative tension. Yuian Chung-tao arJ04 (1570- 1623), Yuan Hung-tao's younger brother, for instance, writes about the tension of being between engagement and withdrawal with keen appreciation. He describes with sympathy a special breed of superior beings (ming-liu -it ) who "want to become a hermit but cannot ... In most cases, their bones are unyielding (chs'i ku kang ThfIi ) and their feelings often cloying (chs'i ch'ing ni 27 The locus classicus of this idea may be Tung-fang Shuo's CM (ca. 2nd cent. B.C.) self-justification when charged with being wild and indecorous (k'uang Th): "As for the likes of Shuo, they may be said to escape the world (pi-shih ;t:t) in the middle of the court. As for the ancients, they escaped the world in the deep mountains" ("Collected Biographies of Jesters", in Ssu-ma Ch'ien ,!S , Records of the Historian (Shih chi 5E) [Beijing: Chung-hua shu-chui, 1975 reprint of 1959 ed.], c.126.3205; the account on Tung-fang Shuo was added by Ch'u Shao-sun 28 Hsia Chi X* (active mid-17th century), Yin-chii fang-yen NW)Y, K'o-chung hsien-hua $;m4g, Wen yin-shih rFP&i, quoted in Ch'en Wan-i 1 Wan-Ming hsiao-p'in yii Ming-chi wen-jen sheng-huo FSJ 94,Mt Jk At i (Taipei: Ta-an ch'u- pan-she, 1988), 77. 29 See Li Chih's 4E letter to Chao Hung N\YMk (Yu yi ChaoJo-hou 7.4t>AM ), in Fen-shu, Hsii fen-shu J t (A Book for Burning, Sequel to a Book for Burning, Kyoto: Chung-wen chu-pan-she, 1971), 54-56. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI Ir J ). Because of their unyielding bones [that is, proud and un- compromising nature] they constantly wish to escape the world; but their cloying feelings [that is, attachments, desires and longings] are such that they cannot ask nothing of this world". Yuian Chung-tao recommends compromise: "As for the like of us, we should preserve our unyielding bones, restrain our cloying feelings, and make an effort to be careful about the tips of our tongues and brushes [that is, what we say and write]. Thus can we float and be [like] birds on the water, steal leisure, and preserve our bodies".30 The praise of liminality is matched by the suspicion of finality. Yuan Chung-tao quotes with approval Li Chih's criti- cism of the first of Su Shih's UP famous "Fu on the Red Cliff' ("Ch'ien Ch'ih-pi fu" i>;lit), widely praised for its compelling vision of Taoist transcendence, as "close to being the barrier of reason" (chin yii li-chang ITfNIN). In that poem Su Shih reasons his way to enlightenment, as it were, using a splendid rhetoric to console his friend's anguish over mutability and mortality. Both Yuan and Li suspect self-deception and an unjustified philosophi- cal complacency.3' Liminality and suspicion of finality imply si- multaneous engagement in and withdrawal from the mundane world, a balance sometimes achieved through the activities of the collector and the connoisseur. This balance represents the aspira- tion of the late-Ming cultural elite to sustain intensity of experi- ence while maintaining equilibrium of the self as well as the co- herence of the socio-political order. Dangerous if domesticated passions32 Whereas the discourse on objects as a cultural practice in the public realm emphasizes the reconciliation of opposites, there are 30 See Yuan Chung-tao, "Diary of EastwardJourney" ("Tung-yujih-chi" MH Re, in Ko-hsiieh chai chin chi I (Shanghai: Shang-hai shu-tien, 1982 reprint of 1935 edition), c.1.26. 31 Ibid., 24. A corollary of liminality is scepticism. Yuan Chung-tao reports how he once asked Li Chih why a certain person intent on "apprehending the Way" (ts'an hua-t'ou ) should be so far from it. Li Chih replied that it is because he does not understand what it means to be sceptical (pu-chieh ch'i-i TMLE). "For scepticism (i P-) is the treasure of those learning the Way; the greater the scepti- cism, the greater the enlightenment (i ta tse wu i ta IJ1lIJ}z )". Yulan Chung- tao agrees, and opposes scepticism to reason (li 3 ); the former is integral to the apprehension of the Way, the latter antithetical ("Writing on Yuan Kung's Vol- ume", ["ShuYuieh Kung ts'e" S1A1ffl ], in Ko-hsiieh chai chin-chi, c.3.100-101). 321 took the phrase from Walter Benjamin, "Edward Fuchs, Collector and His- This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 287 other writings about things, chiefly found among "informal es- says" and "random notes", which valorize excesses and an intense, personal manner of possession. In these accounts, there is no pose of laying down aesthetic judgenment or rule of taste for the public realm. Lu Shu-sheng W (1509-1605), for instance, af- firms his affinities with his collection of inkstones (he adopts the courtesy name "Master of Ten Inkstones", ["Shih yen chu-jen" tQ AD]) in the "Essay on the Inkstone Studio" ('Yen shih chi" WUE ), though he is fully aware of the fact that they are not supe- rior specimens. Had he been famous, he argues, his modest col- lection would have acquired a reputation. However, since the owner is the source of value anyway, his obsession renders his pos- sessions valuable. "As for my attachment to my inkstones, it cannot be transferred to other precious, valuable things. The inkstones thus depend on me for being the object of obsession, who knows whether they may not acquire value that way? That is why my ob- session has not been reasoned away".33 Lu Shu-sheng describes how he would sit "facing the inkstones, proud and immovable" (wu-ao hsiang-tui 3EfNYI). By far more common in writings from this period is a more dramatic demon- stration of empathic understanding. In "Postscript to Poetry of the Half-Stone Studio" ("Pan shih chai shih pa" , U),34 Li Wei- chen tfffh (1547-1626) constructs or reports a dialogue in which he asks the person who requests the postscript, a friend of the poet whose courtesy name is "Half-Stone Studio", about the meaning of "Half-Stone Studio". The friend replies, "Shao-wen (the poet) is talented but luckless (shu-chi VAr), for long an un- successful candidate, he acquired half a slab of stone and prizes it (ch'i A, literally, considers it extraordinary, ch 'i is the same word as the earlier chi and is a possible pun)". The poet and the half- stone become inseparable. "When inspiration seizes him, he would grind ink and put brush to stone, writing in a rapid and flowing manner, as if aided by it. When he finishes, he would hit and slap the stone and sing, as if it issued answering echoes". The friend relates how the poet draws from a rich stone lore and my- torian" in One Way Street and Other Writings, Edmund Jephcott and Kingsley Shorter trans. (London: Verso, 1985), 371. 33 Lu Shu-sheng, "Yen shih chi", in Wan-Ming erh-shih-chia hsiao-p'in PM-i t '/J'r , Shih Chih-ts'un R4- ed. (Shanghai: Shang-hai shu-tien, 1984, facsimile reproduction of 1935 edition published by Kuang-ming shu-chiu), 18-19. 34 Li Wei-chen, "Pan shih chai shih pa", in Wan-Ming erh-shih chia hsiao-pz'in, 33-34. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI thology35 to show how poetry may aspire to be like a stone, with its resources of colour, sound, taste, weight, edges, truthfulness, evenness, and myriad transformations: "My talent is but half of the stone. I commit my feelings of repose to the stone (chi shih yii shih A-tfTi), and in my poetry also I come only halfway to what poetry can be". In response to this account, Li Wei-chen exclaims: "How Shao Sheng (the poet) spoke lightly of halves! Hsieh Ling-yuin A (385-433, famous poet) said that Yin Chung-wen's &93R (4th cent. scholar-official) learning was half of Yuan Pao AP and that his talent was not less than Pan Ku's fif1 (32-92, Han histo- rian). Huan Wen 1Itg (5th cent. general) said that in Ku K'ai- chih's (345-411, famous Chin painter) being, obsession and intel- ligence each makes up half. For Shao-wen's obsession with the half-stone, take Huan's half and give it to him; for how he writes poetry because of the half-stone, take Hsieh's half and give it to him. That should be enough for him to claim preeminence in an entire region!" The distinctiveness of this kind of empathy and identification with the unique and particular object can be better appreciated if we compare it to the treatment of the object in generic terms in the relevant treatises and manuals, which tend to dwell on the general attributes and cultural, moral, metaphysical meanings of the objects. For example, the famous painter Tung Ch'i-ch'ang X A-V (1556-1637), in his Thirteen Discourses on Antiques (Ku-tung shih-san shuo ti_), has recourse to the etymology of the two words for antique, ku-tung X. The word ku X, literally, bones, implies essence and that which defies the erosion of time. The word tung M is associated with government, official, and also grass, 35 This particular brand of obsession has a distinguished genealogy, and there is a considerable literature on rock connoisseurship. Obsessed with rocks and au- thor of a Rock Catalogue (Shih p'u Li), the famous Sung painter Mi Fu (1052- 1107) is supposed to bow low in front of a beautiful rock and call it "Elder Rock" ("Shih chang" ;Ft:). Judith Zeitlin discusses a story on a man's obsession with a beautiful rock from Records of the Strange from Liao-chai Studio (Liao-chai chih-i 8110Y,A) in "The Petrified Heart: Obsession in Chinese Literature, Art, and Medi- cine", Late Imperial China, Vol. 12, No. 1 (June 1991): 1-26; and in Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 74-88. Wang Jing discusses the magical and mythical attributes of the stone in the Chinese tradition in The Story of Stone: Stone Lore and Intertextuality in Hung-lou meng, Hsi-yu chi, and Shui-hu chuan (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992), 35-94. For the importance of rocks in Chinese art, seeJohn Hay, Kernels of Energy, Bones of Earth: The Rock in Chinese Art (New York: China Institute of America, 1985). This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 289 covering, layers, protection, and thus by extension, proper usage and understanding. Analogies are then drawn between apprecia- tion of antiques, which is interpreted as a form of "returning to origins" (fan-pen A*), and moral self-cultivation, which also strives to recover the originary, pristine purity of moral conscious- ness. Since the sensual appeal of antiques is not always immedi- ately obvious, they embody the "reclusive mode" (i-pin Xn) - they require the worthy exercise of proceeding from surface to core, comparable to the exegesis of the classics which also ferrets out layers of meaning.36 On a more whimsical note, in his "Post- script to the History of Flowers" ("Hua shih pa" rnp.M ),37 Ch'en Chi-ju 1X- (1558-1639) likens the labor of cultivation with gov- ernment, and the spirit of gardening with reclusion. In his post- script, the flower-lover is credited with a special understanding of history and temporality: "Anyone with affinities of spirit and simi- lar inclinations should be invited to recline among the trees and gaze at the flowers as they bloom and fall. How is this different from (seeing) the traces of the rise and the fall, the splendor and the decline, over hundreds and thousands of years?" The praise of the object in these instances is premised on its general edifying qualities. By contrast, the poet of the Half-Stone Studio identifies with the rock precisely because of its halved, incomplete, flawed state,38 even while eulogizing it as embodying the properties of poetry. The underlying fantasy in the poet's attachment to the stone seems to be that by sheer force of will reciprocity from "mere things" is possible.39 The standard conceit in this kind of writings therefore anthropomorphizes the object and endows it with sen- tience and memory. Such accounts often employ the rhetoric of friendship and, even more frequently, romantic love, with refer- 36 Tung Ch'i-ch'ang, Ku-tung shih-san shuo (collected in the MSTS 2.8.4), la- 6b. 37 Ch'en Chi-ju, "Hua shih pa", in Wan-Ming hsiao-p'in hsiian chu, 101. 38 By the late Ming, epithets like "superfluous person" (chui-jen iA), "odd, malformed person" (chi-jen K A), "useless person" (fei-jen TVA ) are often used in accounts of oneself. By the same token, words like ch 'ih 0 (obsessed, foolish), fengC, tien , k'uangTh, chiian f (mad, insane, unreasonable, defiant), p'io (ob- sessed), tz'u rE (flawed) sometimes refer to a mixture of radical innocence, naivet6, stubborn faith, in addition to the literal meanings, and can therefore be used almost as terms of praise. 39 This is a recurrent topos in Chinese fiction. Numerous examples may be found, for instance, in the seventeenth century collection Liao-chai chih-i. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI ences to sudden encounters, mysterious attraction, solemn recog- nition. The keyword is yii A or chih-yii OA, encounter (with one who can truly appreciate and understand). In Chin Chiun-ming's 4 (1602-1675) essays on orchids,40 for instance, he describes how, during a boat ride in the lake, he spots a friend's boat in the distance and "senses something extraordinary". It turns out to be a pot of orchids: "I have seen orchids over the years, at the most one speaks of fragrance or luxuriance, never have I seen one which captivates at first sight, almost eliciting a reverent bow, like these blossoms". He writes in the third essay: "I was surprised by joy, and could hardly contain myself, somewhat like Li Ching's fN state when Hung-fu AIO (Maiden with Red Duster) proposed elopement to him'.41 When he gives it up, in exchange for a pair of carved seals, to a friend (who threatened to commit suicide if denied the request for the coveted orchids), he adopts the pose of the unworthy lover, and expresses his regret and sorrow with an allusion to Shih Ch'ung Li who, unlike himself, did not be- tray his beloved concubine Lu Chu K9%. Here the histrionic ges- tures and the self-conscious dramatization of perception and ex- perience stand in sharp contrast to the actual transaction and the relative ease with which the author gives up his prized possession. Late-Ming writers have often been criticized for distorting or ex- aggerating feelings in order to mark their uniqueness (chiao-ch 'ing %19); it is passages such as these that give this kind of criticism cre- dence. The use of metaphors of feminine charms in conveying the sen- suality of the object and sentimental attachment to it is almost in- evitable in accounts of "obsessions with flowers" (hua-p'i 1tE), though by no means limited to it. Wen Chen-heng uses the femi- nine metaphor to describe awe-inspiring beauty, and enjoins that "one should face calligraphy and paintings as one faces a beauty, not a trace of roughness and frivolity is admissible".42 Instead of awe and respect, however, the more frequent associations of sen- sual beauty are love and longing. This kind of vocabulary recurs in, for instance, travel writings (yu-chi - ), where recognition of beauty in landscape is often compared to the sentimental entan- 40 Chin Chuin-ming, "Record on Orchids, Four Entries" ("Chi lan, ssu-tse" 1EM VRIUJ ), in Wan-Ming hsiao-p 'in-wen hsiuan, 214-217. 41 Li Ching and Hung-fu are characters from a famous ninth century tale, "Curly Beard" ("Ch'iujan k'o chuan" kLWXf) and of The Story of Hung-fu (Hung- fu chi I^E), a ch'uan-ch'i fW* play based on that story. 42 Chang-wu chih, c.5.3a. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILIIsY 291 glement of "love karma" (ch'ing-chang 1W14 ),43 and mountains are predictably compared to beautiful women, not the least because of their changeable aspects.44 If the place happens to be linked to the name of a beautiful woman from history or legend, the asso- ciations become ubiquitous - as in Yuan Hung-tao's account of the Spirit Cliff (Ling-yen), the supposed site of the Kuan-wa Pal- ace of the ancient Wu kingdom, wherein lived the famous beauty Hsi Shih FiX (ca. 6th cent. B.C.).45 When a blast of wind sends a deep rustle through the pine trees, Yuan compares it to "the tin- kling pendants and hairpins of the beauty", and warns his monk companion that his vows of abstinence may be thereby broken. He ends his essay by offering a reversal (fan-an MS) of the histori- cal verdict blaming Hsi Shih for the fall of Wu, implying that his sympathy with her and her pervasive presence in the landscape are complete. Irl these writings, nature sometimes assumes a femi- nine aspect in order the entice the irresolute worldling from more common sensual pleasures. Yuan Chung-tao writes, "With respect to the sound and forms of this world, I am not capable of forgetting my feelings with calm indifference (tanjan wang-ch'ing &t>,>Ap3), nor am I capable of entering into their midst without being touched ... I desperately want to escape [the world], but the situation is such that I cannot yet cut lose. I thus use the sounds and forms beyond the human world (shih-wai chih sheng-se t: %E ) to fight [their counterparts in the human world]".46 The rhetoric which humanizes landscape with feminine meta- phors often refers to dramatic encounters (the word yu recurs, as do descriptions of awed silence and "wild shouts", k'uang-chiao En1F) and active empathy. In In Quest of Dreams at West Lake, Chang 43 Yuan Tsung-tao aA: (1560-1600, Yuan Hung-tao's older brother), "Record of a Trip to the Temple of SupremeJoy" ("Chi-le-ssu chi-yu", A"ex ) in Pai-Su chai lei-chi bg;Wtt (Shanghai: Shang-hai ku-chi ch'u-pan-she, 1986), 192. In a similar strain Yuan Hung-tao (Tsung-tao's younger brother) describes how he is "drunk from the sights and intoxicated in spirit (mu-han shen-tsui g S"S)" in his encounter with West Lake - the experience is compared to the third century poet Ts'ao Chih's meeting with the Goddess of the River Lo in his dream. "West Lake, First Essay" ("Hsi hu i" AA"--), in Yuan Hung-tao chi chien-chao, 1: 422. 44 See Huang Ju-heng A-9 (1558-1626), "Preface to 'Record of Mount Huang' by Yao Yiian-su'7 ('Xao tvian-su Huang-shan-chi yin" SXSnegl ), in Wan-Ming erh-shah-chia hsiao9'in, 167. 45 Ytian Hung-tao, "Ling yeil" mffi, in Yiian Hurlg-tao chi chien-chao, 16F165. 46 Yuan Chung-tao, "Miscellan:; of the Jade Spling" (;Tu Ch'tian shih-i chi" i7gtn2), in K'c-hseh chai chin chi, c.1.117. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI Tai writes about the Fly-Here Peak ("Fei-lai feng" AM , i.e., with its abrupt contours it seems to have "flown here from beyond the heavens", tien-wai fei-lai WiX1**) at West Lake: "The Fly-Here Peak, with its layers of intricate hollows, and delicately inlaid with empty spaces, is a veritable rare rock from the very sleeve of the Mad Painter Mi Fu. Should someone obsessed with rocks (shih-p'i H;) see it, he must make obeisance in the full regalia of court robes and official tablet. He would not dare simply address it as 'Elder Rock', for that would seem too forthright and disrespect- ful. Most hateful of all is Yang K'un %A [a monk who collabo- rated with the Mongols at the end of the thirteenth century], who had Buddhist statues carved all over it. Sculptures of arhats and Buddhas are everywhere, like the teeth of a comb. This is like in- flicting elaborate tattoes of pavilions, ponds, birds, and animals on the flower-like skin and jade-white body of Hsi Shih, and then covering the scars with the ink for tattooing criminals".47 Here the allusion to the rock-obsession of Mi Fu acquires an erotic under- tone through the metaphor of the mutilation of Hsi Shih. Even while denouncing Buddhist sculptures as an affront to the natural beauty of the peak, the essay revolves around cultural stereotypes. The imposition of metaphors from paintings on landscape in these travel writings is part of the same project. Famous landscape paintings, especially works by Mi Fu, are constantly evoked. Fram- ing nature as art is thus a way to appropriate and interiorize it. In some cases, a more complete domestication of nature calls for greater liberty with scale and proportion. Thus Yuian Chung-tao praises a mountain by imagining its miniature, transformed into the familiar objects of the scholar's studio: "In sum, not only does this mountain have the most intricate and delicate bone structure (ku-li ling-lung A N), so much so that if shrunk it can be used as a mountain-inkstone (yen-shan %0U) or brush-holder (pi-ch'uang *#); it also has a special seductive charm, similar to snow yet more intense; close to colorful clouds yet more subtle".48 Aesthetic framing is yet another variation of the theme of edify- ing pleasure and measured appreciation discussed earlier. But longing has its perils, and the erotic metaphor sometimes augurs moments of loss of control. Pleasure can no longer be unadulter- ated when passion is being suffered. Obsessive attachment is by 47 Chang Tai, T'ao-an meng-i, Hsi-hu meng-hsiin, 21. 48 See Yuian Chung-tao, "Trip to the Lu-wan Mountains" ("Yu Lu-wan Shan chi" WEt ) in K'o-hsiieh chai chin chi, c.1.109. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COT CTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 293 definition something that cannot be helped. Yuan Chung-tao de- scribes how he is being drawn to nature: "It is only after forty that my inclination became an obsession (hao chih ch'eng p'i SAR). People have been surprised by my excessive love. There used to be in my village an old man whose eyes would become blurred and whose hands would shake if for a day he could not get drunk ... He was driven by a sickness; it could not be helped. My feelings for mountains and forest are just like that".49 Yuan asserts in an- other context that it is the pain that proves the genuineness of the passion: "In the case of Juan Chi's 6iffi intoxication, or Wang Wu- kung's 3Eig drinking, [the passion] is in their nature. Or take Mi Fu's madness, he could not escape even if he wanted to ... As for [Ni] Yun-lin's obsession with cleanliness, he was pained pre- cisely by that; he did not enjoy having it".5 The point where self- control is most challenged also seems to be the locus of the most genuine self-expression. Perhaps it is fascination with this tension that prompts some late-Ming writers to praise obsession. Chang Tai's epigrammatic lines come to mind: "One cannot befriend those without obsessions, for they lack deep feelings; one cannot befriend those without faults, for they lack the genuine spirit''.5l The connoisseurly enjoyment of things discussed earlier be- longs to a stable and hierarchical universe. Passion, on the other hand, raises questions of the selSs boundaries, which may best be conceived in spatial metaphors. The language of sentimental longing and fanatical devotion in writings on travel and landscape is an attempt to convert nature into private space. The same in- tention also informs the construction of gardens. In a recent 49Yuan Chung-tao, "Preface to Wang Po-tzu's Travels in Yueh" ("Wang Po-tzu Yueh yu hsu" iSt+gXF), in K'o-hsueh chai chin chi, c.3.40-41. 50Yuan Chung-tao, "On Spontaneous, Unconventional Behavior while Travel- ling in the Mountains" ("Shu yu-shan hao-shuang yu" }XSQ#i), in K'o-hsueh chai chin-chi, c.3.112-113. The essay satirically unmasks those who use untoward behavior and the appearance of compulsion to prove their spontaneity and defi- ance of convention (, sometimes at the cost of great discomfort and health hazards. They conceive of themselves as spectacle and their only con- cern is to appear interesting. 51 Chang Tai, "Obsessions of Ch 'i Chih-hsiang" ( "Ch'i Chih-hsiang p 'i" ITfiX:W) in T'ao-an meng-i, 39. Chang quotes these lines at the beginning of the "Five Extraordinary Characters" ("Wu ijen chuan" i:X}294 WAI-YEE LI study, Joanna Handlin Smith discusses the "garden mania" in the late Ming, when writings about gardens are dominated by a new rhetoric of ownership (gardens are identified with their current owners) and an unprecedented subservience of political, moral, philosophical meanings of enjoyment of gardens to an aesthetic of garden ownership.52 It is from this period that we find accounts of how gardens are built according to dream visions,53 for it is in the world of dreams that possession is most intense and personal. Ch'i Piao-chia ifiit3t4 (1602-1645), for instance, describes how he dreams of the garden he is thinking of building, and exhausts his resources in realizing his dream. "I fell sick and recovered, recov- ered and got sick again: such is my foolish obsession about build- ing a garden".54 Yui-shan, land of memories and dreams, embod- ies a whim which acquires the force of necessity: Ch'i explains his obsession by "karmic connection" (shu-yiian ?9). The garden de- liberately evokes a dreamscape: "At the corner of 'abode for re- turning clouds' (kuei-yiin -), one enters obliquely through a low door, just like the moment Lu Sheng jumps into the pillow [and enters the dreamland] . The garden creates optical illusions and sudden changes of aspect, which leads Ch'i to compare it to the fictional and folkloric "turning ring" (wan-chuan huan M*M), with which one is supposed to dream of entering a world of ideal beauty should one hold it while going to sleep. The confusion of dreaming and waking states points to the dangers of domesticated passion: it represents both the triumph of the imagination and also registers the self s (incipient) unease about the claims of socio-political reality.56 52Joanna F. Handlin Smith, "Gardens in Ch'i Piao-chia's Social World: Wealth and Values in Late Ming Kiangnan", Journal of Asian Studies 51 (1992), 55-81. Handlin describes gardens as "social space personally controlled", and maintains that garden building served the goal of social interaction, 72. 53 Cf. Jan Stuart, "A Scholar's Garden in Ming China: Dream and Reality", in Asian Art. Vol. III, no. 4 (Fall, 1990), 31-52. 54 Ch'i Piao-chia, "Notes on Yui-shan" ("Yfi-shan chu" 91St), in Liu Ta-chieh ed., Ming-jen hsiao-p'in chi, 49. Cf. Handlin, 60. 55 "Notes on Yfi-shan", 71. This is an allusion to Shen Chi-chi's tiEi "The World Within a Pillow" ("Chen chung chi" ftA"E), a ninth century tale about a man who enters a dreamworld through a pillow given to him by a Taoist, lives the life he desires, and wakes up to arrive at enlightenment upon contemplation of a lifetime's vicissitudes in a dream. 56 Perhaps a kind of unease informs the name "Hall of Four Unfulfilled Obli- gations" (Ssu-fu t'ang RlY2) in Ch'i's garden. The name is supposed to com- This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 295 In some ways "garden mania" epitomizes the ambiguities in- volved in the effacement of the boundaries of self and other in in- tensely experienced possession. The "union of object and subject (literally, thing and self, wu-wo ho-i 1tz'A )" is a time-honored aesthetic ideal in the tradition. In this sense intimate possession suggests openness to experience and expansion of consciousness. But with garden-building the object of connoisseurly enjoyment is created and defined by its owner. The obsession with gardens thus emphasizes the self-reflexive, and in some cases narcissistic, dimension of possession.57 Chang Tai writes about his cousin Yen- k'o #:,58 whose arbitrary and furious garden-building wreaks great havoc. Impatient with the absence of moss in his garden, Yen-k'o orders painters to paint the rocks. Huge trees quickly wither when forcibly transplanted to the cracks of rocks in his gar- den. This tyrannical and wanton wastefulness also characterizes his activity as a collector. Endowed with superior judgement as a connoisseur, Yen-k'o is obsessed with acquiring works of art, but he shows little remorse when he destroys them in his impatience to "improve" them. Dissatisfied with the colour of an antique bronze vessel, he throws it into the fire to heighten its tone and duly destroys it. Yet the sensibility behind Yen-k'o's furious impa- tience with the world of things is in some ways comparable to ob- sessive devotion. The language of reciprocity notwithstanding, fa- natical devotion and intense attachment to objects are in sub- stance no more and no less self-centered than the whimsical or- dering of the world of objects which sometimes involves wanton memorate the well-meant admonition of a friend, who told Ch'i about his unful- filled obligations toward the ruler (fu-chiin 4;), toward his parents (fu-ch 'in A ), and toward himself fu-chi E). Ch'i's friend, not having admonished Ch'i in time, is guilty of unfulfilled obligation toward his friend (fu-yu A) ): hence "four unfulfilled obligations" ('Yii-shan chu", 72-74). The remorse seems tongue-in- cheek, however. The "Hall of Four Unfulfilled Obligations" seems to be thus named for the sake of symmetry, so that it may parallel with the "Pavilion of Eight Quests" (Pa-ch'iu lou A*ff), which refers to eight ways in quest of books to fill a library. 57Judith Zeitlin makes the same point and quotes from Ku-chin t 'an-kai -,X attributed to Feng Meng-lung: "It wasn't that Tao loved chrysanthemums, Lin loved plum blossoms, or Mi loved rocks, but rather in all these cases, it was the self loving the self' ("The Petrified Heart", 9). 58 Chang Tai, "Biographies of Five Extraordinary Characters" ("Wu 1-jen chuan"), in Lang-hsiin wen-chi, 183-186; Chang Tai, "Heavenly Inkstone" ("T'ien- yen" i in Tao-an meng-i, 8; "Pavilion of Auspicious Grass Stream" ('Jui-ts'ao hsi-t'ing" IVM), in T'ao-an meng-i, 78-79. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI destruction. In both cases the wish is for the universal order of things to correspond to the particular order of one's desires. The line between boundless selflessness and boundless expansion of the ego is paradoxically very thin.59 Collecting memories The range of different attitudes toward the object have one as- pect in common - the collector's and connoisseur's experience of the world of things is itself the object of collecting and connois- seurship. The heightened self-consciousness of the period is such that an element of self-observation and self-appreciation (tzu- shang S I) is almost inevitable, whether the pose be disinterested appreciation, fanatical devotion, empathic identification, or tyran- nical appropriation. In this sense, only upon loss can possession be genuine, because the actual context, the social dimension of owning, is thereby dissolved. By the same token, what is lost can be repossessed through memory and writing, for it is in the vagar- ies of consciousness in retracing lost dreams that possession can best be established. The fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 spelt the destruction of a world for many members of the literati, and the attempt to repos- sess that lost world through writing is a token of implied freedom and autonomy for the dreaming, imagining or remembering self. In his 1671 preface to In Quest of Dreams at West Lake, Chang Tai claims that the West Lake in his memory is more real than the ac- tual West Lake - "I was born in troubled times, and I have been away from West Lake for twenty-eight years. However, not a day passed without the West Lake entering my dreams, and in that sense the West Lake of my dreams has not parted from me for one day". Chang Tai goes on to describe how two visits to the rav- 59 The same problem informs the consciousness of Pao-yiu, the hero of the eighteenth-century masterpiece The Story of the Stone (otherwise known as The Dream of the Red Chamber [Hung-lou meng E]), which in some ways is still re- working the late Ming legacy. The cult of passion decrees that "the myriad things have feelings" (wan-wu yu-ch 'ing tf), and Pao-yui is supposed to embody "the sympathetic understanding of things" (t'i-wu Mt). Pao-yiu creates his own myths and endows the world of nature with sentience; the famous scene of burying fallen blossoms (chapter 23) develops from this all-encompassing sympathy. At the same time, Pao-yiu regards the world as somehow fashioned according to his feelings. In order to please his maid Ch'ing-wen, he tears one fan after another, because, he argues, the raison d'ietre of the fans can reside precisely in the sound of the tearing (chapter 31). This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 297 aged West Lake confirm him in his belief that the only West Lake he has is the one he lost, that the "real" West Lake exists only in memory. "From now on I would turn to the tranquility of the cot- tage and the grass mat, treasuring only my old dreams".60 The book is organized around famous landmarks and scenic spots, each becoming the locus of poems and essays (including Chang Tai's own works) written about it. Many of these belong to the cat- egory of travel writings mentioned earlier, writings dominated by a rhetoric of demonstrative appreciation and eager appropria- tion. Chang Tai's activities as a collector and connoisseur are more in evidence in the Dream Memories of T'ao-an, which professes to re- pent of such excesses and indulgence through remembrance: "And I think over my past life: glory, honour, wealth, all revert to emptiness after passing in the twinkling of an eye. Fifty years amount to one dream ... From afar I let my thoughts roam over events past, and commit to writing whatever comes to my memory. I bring these recollections in front of the Buddha, repenting of them one by one ... Picking up a fragment at random is like wan- dering along old paths and seeing old friends. 'The city walls are the same but not the inhabitants', for all that I am consoled. In- deed, one should beware of talking to deluded souls about dreams ... Now I am about to wake up from this great dream called life, and I am still concerned with the carving of insects (i.e., trivial literary pursuits), which is just so much somniloquy".61 Chang Tai writes about past experiences, supposedly to repent of them, but even while writing he relives them and feels their power again. Herein lies the irony of the telling of dreams. The act of telling involves distance and reflection, but there is also the lure of repossession of what is lost. Chang Tai is a great connoisseur of tea, and he recounts with evident relish a feat of remarkable discernment which made him the lifelong friend of the tea-master Elder Min.62 He also gives a loving description of the "Orchid Snow tea" (Lan-hsuieh ch'a i@1fi) which he blended, and describes with keen appreciation water from the Ch'i Spring 60 Hsi-hu meng-hsiin, 7. 61 "Preface to T'ao-an meng-i" ("Meng-i hsiu" *214), Lang-hsiin wen-chi, 28-29. Stephen Owen discusses this preface in Remembrances: The Experience of the Past in Classical Chinese Literature (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1986), 131-141. 62 See Chang Tai, "The Tea of Elder Min" ("Min lao-tzu ch'a" f in T'ao- an meng-i, 24. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI (Ch'i ch'uian WA) and the Yang-ho Spring (Yang-ho ch'iuan gWT), supposedly ideal for brewing tea.63 He expresses his abid- ing fascination with characters obsessively devoted to things or to people, virtuosity (especially as displayed by painters, musicians, actors, and story-tellers) and the rare, extraordinary, and unique objects, accounts of which make up a good part of the book. On rare occasions, Chang Tai writes about lost possessions in a reflective mode, tempering nostalgia by bringing in other tempo- ral perspectives. In the entry on "'Three Generations' Collection of Books" ("San-shih ts'ang shu" _ the destruction of the family collection is set against the sad fate of the massive Sui-T'ang imperial collections. The awareness of the comparative insignifi- cance of the individual's losses supposedly leads to resignation: "The collection which was the work of forty years was also com- pletely destroyed in one day. Such was the destiny of my family's books - who was there to blame? ... My books amount to 'one hair in nine cows', it is not really worth brooding over".64 By far more typical, however, is the sense that writing is the only means to pos- sess what even at the moment of experience cannot be possessed. "Upon watching a good performance, my only regret was the im- possibility of wrapping it in magic brocade and preserving it for eternity. I once compared it to the beautiful moon, or one good cup of properly brewed tea, which can only be savored for a mo- ment even though one treasures it indefinitely. When Huan Tzu- yeh Hf; came upon beauty in nature, he would often shout: 'What is to be done (nai-ho /f61)?' There is indeed nothing to be done - one cannot even speak about it".65 The nostalgia for the emotion of that moment is already felt at the moment of ex- perience. Although Chang Tai writes about how "different transgressions can be recognized in different retributions", the connection be- tween the collector, the connoisseur, and the person who has lost his world and his country (i-min i , literally, the left-over per- son) is only maintained in the abstract. His loving attention to the lost world of things, his connoisseurly appreciation of his own ex- perience and expression leave little room for genuine self-distanc- 63 Ibid., 21-23. 64Ibid., 18-19. 65 "The Acting of P'eng T'ien-tz'u" ("P'eng T'ien-tz'u ch'uan hsi" 3W04210 in ibid., 52. Almost one quarter of the entries in T'ao-an meng-i are related to the theatre, of which Chang Tai was a great connoisseur. His family kept its own the- atrical troupe. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 299 ing. Moreover, the fact that Chang Tai writes with nostalgia not so much for personal possessions but for a bygone culture must jus- tify the absence of genuine repentence for him and his readers, for many of his contemporary and later readers share that nostal- gia. Conclusion It was left to the eighteenth century compilers of the imperial encyclopedia (Ssu-k'u ch'iian-shu E*i4), who included the late Ming discourse on things with disparaging reservations, to empha- size the connection between collecting, connoisseurship, and the fall of the Ming dynasty.66 They in their turn drew from the work of seventeenth century thinkers like Ku Yen-wu VAR (1613- 1682) and Wang Fu-chih Efj (1619-1692), who provided strin- gent critiques of the late-Ming.67 Although books on things con- tinued to be written, late-Ming treatises and manuals on objects, insofar as they were devoted to the cultivation of one's faculties for the optimum enjoyment of refined leisure, were condemned as frivolous and trivial, the epitome of refined vulgarity. The other variety of discourse on things, which cultivated personal unique- ness through intense, intimate relations with the world of things, was regarded as the symptom as well as the cause of the individu- al's problem in a disintegrating society and therefore blamed for undermining the equilibrium of the self and the polity. However, the broad implications of the commitment to sensu- ous existence cannot be exhausted by moral judgements negating it. What I have tried to do in this article is to understand these im- plications in terms of the late-Ming literati's self-perception and perception of reality through the world of things. As I noted ear- lier, collecting and connoisseurship emerge as dominant meta- phors in many spheres of experience and expression. In travel writings, for instance, the impulse to be inclusive, exhaustive, and uniquely appreciative echoes attitudes of mind operative in col- lecting and connoisseurship. Even in writing about passion, often 66 For some examples of the disparaging comments of the Ssu-k'u compilers, see Clunas, Superfluous Things, 31-32; Ch'en Wan-i, Wan-Ming hsiao-p'in yii Ming chi wen-jen sheng-huo, 40-44; Ts'ao Shu-chfuan, Wan-Ming hsing-ling hsiao-p'in yen- chiu, 56-58. 67 See, for example, Ku Yen-wu, Jih chih lu chi-shih E U*#, Huang Ju-ch'eng XMO0 ed. (Chengchou: Chung-chou ku-chi ch'u-pan-she, 1990), 439-441. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI understood as spontaneous, immediate, and intense, the note of mediatory, connoisseurly self-observation creeps in. A good exam- ple is the passion of Tu Li-niang ttStA, heroine in The Peony Pavil- ion (Mu-tan t'ing EfSie ) by T'ang Hsien-tsu ME ( 1550-1616) . In this play Tu Li-niang dreams of her ideal lover, Liu Meng-mei, and dies longing for that dream image. After death, her wander- ing soul seeks union with Liu, who eventually resurrects her. Gen- erally regarded as the celebration of passion traversing bounda- ries of life and death, dreaming and waking states, the play never- theless maintains a parallel perspective of passion as self-con- scious. Tu Li-niang is first inspired by passion when she looks into the mirror and becomes aware of herself as object of desire. Later, pining for her lover, she paints herself before she dies. The self-portrait represents the dimension of connoisseurly self-obser- vation in the representation of passion. Of the first two kinds of writings discussed here, that is, the treatises and manuals that address public values and establish general precepts or rules of taste, and the "informal essays" or "random notes" that emphasize excess and an intense, personal relationship with objects, it is the latter that dominate modern textbook accounts of late-Ming literary developments. The radical self emerging from these writings, as realized in the wilful attribu- tion of meaning or sentience to objects, and the self-conscious dramatization of suffering an uncontrollable passion, fits easily into modern formulations of late-Ming "romanticism" or "indi- vidualism". However, writings that define the social, political, and moral meanings of ownership and appreciation are as numerous and important. In some ways they represent the late-Ming solu- tion to the contradictions created by radical subjectivity. In these kinds of writings, collecting and connoisseurship allow the indi- vidual to articulate his difference and to be integrated into elite culture, to cultivate a liminal space whereby he can both engage in and withdraw from the socio-political realm. The third kind of writings I dealt with in this essay, the litera- ture of remembrance, turn the lost world of objects into emblems of a bygone culture. Writing about memories of these objects and experiences of these objects becomes a way to repossess a lost per- sonal past, a lost culture, and a lost country. The example dis- cussed, Chang Tai, also shows how the late-Ming legacy is consid- ered after the fall of the Ming dynasty. (It is quite possible that parts of Dream Memoraes of T'ao-an and In Quest of Dreams at West This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions COLLECTOR, THE CONNOISSEUR & LATE-MING SENSIBILITY 301 Lake were written before 1644, but the prefaces of both works de- liberately present the content as reminiscences.) Chang Tai's writ- ings depict the collector and the connoisseur with a certain reflec- tiveness, but the nostalgia is too intense to admit of genuine irony or self-distancing. Perhaps the distinctiveness of late-Ming cultural attitudes to- ward the world of things may best be appreciated through their subtle transformations in the early Ch'ing. Casual Expressions of Idle Feelingj8 (Hsien-ch'ing ou-chi NMA,^ first published in 1671) by Li Yui (1610-1680) is a case in point. Despite many superficial re- semblances, the mood of Li Yfi's work is decidedly more prag- matic and ironic. He fuses personal ruminations and general ad- vice, all the while maintaining that he writes "as a scholar, not a technician",69 thereby freeing himself from the normative rigor of some late-Ming treatises and manuals. He presents his personal preferences with humor as rules of taste, thus distancing himself from the late-Ming seriousness and insistence on uniqueness when it comes to the category of the personal. A new fusion of pragmatic and aesthetic considerations is evident: a whole section of the book, "Living Quarters" ("chfi-shih"), is devoted to Li Yut's own practical inventions in matters of "home improvement". With the aid of illustrations, he explains his new designs of window frames, furniture, utensils, and calligraphic arrangement. What remains in the realm of suggestion or perceptual organization in late-Ming writings is concretized as inventions in Casual Expres- sions. The idea of fusing nature and art or artifice, for instance, is prevalent in late-Ming writings, and its corresponding expression in Li Yiu's work is a special window frame design for boats, by which both the view outside from within and the view inside from without mimic the effect of a painting. Li Yu calls this "taking the view by borrowing" (ch 'u--ching tsai chieh A ). The late-Ming fascination with liminality is transformed into a more complacent and measured hedonism in Li Yfi's works. In the section on "nourishment of life" (i-yang t{g ), for instance, Li begins with injunctions on moderating pleasures so as to prolong them, then proposes the mental trick of imagining or experienc- ing a worse situation in order to enhance enjoyment, and ends 68 Patrick Hanan's translation. He discusses the book in The Invention of Li Yu (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988), 185-207. 69 Li Yi, Li Yii chiian-chi 4 J% , ed. Shan Chin-heng V$gjI (Che-chiang: Che- chiang ku-chi ch'u-pan-she, 1987), 3: 309. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions WAI-YEE LI with rather startling suggestions on cures for sickness, including the use of favorite food and objects or desire as medicine. Here the tone balances gaily between moral homilies on restraint and halfjesting encouragement of hedonism. In Casual Expressions, li- minality is a source of optimal pleasure instead of tension, and the world of things allows the self to move playfully between pri- vate and public realms. Most notable of all is the demystification of the object in Li Yiu. Even when he writes about his obsessions (crabs, different flowers in different seasons70) the emphasis is on how he takes pleasure in these obsessions, in contradistinction to the late-Ming tendency to celebrate the aura of the object and the moment of un- controllable passion for the object of obsession. Casual Expressions abounds with observations on technical means to enhance enjoy- ment of the world of things, which is thereby divested of intrinsic mystique. An interesting example is the treatment of women. Women are often presented as aesthetic objects in late-Ming writ- ings. In the section "feminine charms" (sheng-jung 4) in Casual Expressions, Li Yu analyzes the basis of the aesthetic and sensual ap- peal of women, and offers advice on how women should improve their complexion or choose hairstyles, socks, shoes, and articles of clothing. By showing how women as aesthetic objects are fash- ioned or may be improved to enhance male pleasure, he dispels the aura of romantic longing. In sum, Li Yiu represents one early Ch'ing response to the late-Ming legacy. He shows how the dan- gers of radical subjectivity may be ameliorated with a new empha- sis on pleasure, playfulness, practicality and compromise. It is through juxtaposition with Li Yiu's attitudes toward possession and appreciation that the distinctiveness of late-Ming cultural atti- tudes may be better appraised and understood. 70 Li Yii ch 'ujan-chi, 3: 254-257; 3: 286-287. This content downloaded from on Sat, 28 Jun 2014 19:04:16 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions Contentsp. [269]p. 270p. 271p. 272p. 273p. 274p. 275p. 276p. 277p. 278p. 279p. 280p. 281p. 282p. 283p. 284p. 285p. 286p. 287p. 288p. 289p. 290p. 291p. 292p. 293p. 294p. 295p. 296p. 297p. 298p. 299p. 300p. 301p. 302Issue Table of ContentsT'oung Pao, Second Series, Vol. 81, Fasc. 4/5 (1995), pp. 201-380Volume InformationFront MatterLongevity like Metal and Stone: The Role of the Mirror in Han Burials [pp. 201-229]La rcitation des noms de "buddha" en Chine et au Japon [pp. 230-268]The Collector, the Connoisseur, and Late-Ming Sensibility [pp. 269-302]A Chinese Imitation of a Flemish Allegorical Picture Representing the Muses of European Sciences [pp. 303-314]Du pareil au mme: A propos des "trois mots" du "Shishuo xinyu" IV, 18 [pp. 315-319]Un vieil instrument de dtection: Le "nerf de loup" [pp. 320-327]Chinese "Buy" and "Sell" and the Direction of Borrowings between Chinese and Hmong-Mien: A Response to Haudricourt and Strecker [pp. 328-342]Bibliographie/Book ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 343-346]Review: untitled [pp. 346-348]Review: untitled [pp. 348-351]Review: untitled [pp. 352-355]Review: untitled [pp. 355-360]Review: untitled [pp. 360-366]Review: untitled [pp. 366-371]Review: untitled [pp. 371-376]Livres Reus/Books Received [pp. 377-379]Back Matter [pp. 380-380]