A Summer of Poetry, Calligraphy, and Painting in One China’s Six Literati Painting Masters of 5 Centuries

A Summer of Poetry, Calligraphy, and Painting in One   <em>China’s Six Literati Painting Masters of 5 Centuries </em>

Ben Wang’s 2021 Summer Course


Tuesday, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
July 13 – August 10
5 sessions (10 hours)
$250 member / $290 non-member
(plus a $30 non-refundable registration fee)
*This class is taught in English.

Emerging in the twilight days of Tang (618-907) as a new literary and artistic genre, China’s Literati Painting blended poetry, music, and painting, as all these three art forms had by then reached maturity in their respective merits. The genre flourished and enjoyed its golden, halcyon days from the 11th century through the dawning years of the Manchu dynasty in the 17th century and lasted well until Mid-20th century.

An artist of Literati Painting paints mostly natural elements. A fine Literati Painting artist works his brush on clouds, petals, mountains, river, rain drops, breezes, the passing of seasons, among other natural elements, all as stand-ins metaphorically for what’s on the artist’s mind and in the artist’s heart. On an exemplary literati painting, a poem must be composed of characters painstakingly selected for their poetic meanings and visual beauty, set in sonorous sounds with a balanced and harmonious tonal scheme, and written out in a chosen calligraphic style (depending on the artist’s mood) to accompany and thematize the painting itself – all of which culminates in a unique artwork that is at once viscerally captivating and cerebrally evocative.

While appreciating a fine literati painting, the poetry and calligraphy provide visualized thoughts, the tonal sounds offer music and rhythm, and the picture itself shows humanized Nature – and thereby the acquisition of a total and rounded enjoyment on the part of an aficionado of literature, music and art.

In this new 5-session course, lives and works of six towering masters of Literati Painting of 5 centuries, from the late 12th to 18th centuries, will be introduced and studied for the very first time at China Institute this summer, starting in June. The 6 artists are Ni Zan 倪瓒(雲林) of the Yuan, Tang Yin 唐寅(六如居士)and Xu Wei 徐渭 (青藤) of the Ming,and Shi Tao 石濤 (苦瓜和尚,清湘大滌子), Wang Shishen 汪士慎 (巢林,溪東外史), and Zheng Xie 鄭燮 (板橋) of the Qing/Manchu dynasty, none of whom or whose works were introduced and taught before.

(By Ben Wang)



Ben Wang: Senior Lecturer in Language and Humanities at China Institute, Co-Chair of Renwen Society of China Institute, retired Instructor of Chinese at the United Nations Language Program.  A published writer on classical Chinese poetry and others, Ben Wang is an award winning translator both from Chinese into English and vice versa; He taught Chinese and translation at Columbia University, New York University, Pace University and City University of New York between 1969 and 1991.

Ben Wang teaches and lectures on the Chinese language, calligraphy, and classical Chinese literature, including the Book of Songs, the Songs of the South; Han, Tang and Song poetry; Yuan and Ming poetic dramas; Story of the Stone of the Qing; classical Kunqu Drama and Beijing Opera; Literati Painting. Ben Wang’s lectures on and translations of Kunqu dramas have been reviewed and acclaimed three times in the New York Times by the Times’ music and drama critic James Oestreich as “magnificent,” “captivating,” and “colorful.”

Since 1989, Ben Wang has lectured (extensively on the above-mentioned subjects)at Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Barnard, Williams, U.C. Berkeley, New York University, Bates, Colby, Hamilton, Middlebury, Rutgers, Seton Hall, St. Mary’s College in California, the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art, United Nations, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, ABC Nightline, the BBC, among other academic and cultural institutions.

Latest publications in English:

  1. Forlorn in the Rain: Translation and Annotation of Selected Classical Chinese Poetry and Others; Published by Foreign Languages Publishing Bureau, Beijing, China: Oct. 2018
  1. A series of 4 books on the Forbidden City in Beijing, China:
    1. We All Live in the Forbidden City
    2. This Is the Greatest Place!
    3. Bowls of Happiness
    4. What Was It Like, Mr. Emperor?

    (Published by China Institute and Released by Tuttle Publishing; 2014, 2015, the series has garnered 9 US book awards, as of September 2016.)

  1. Laughter and Tears: Libretti from Highlight Scenes of 26 Classical Poetic Kunqu Dramas; Published by Foreign Languages Publishing Bureau, Beijing, China: 2009.

(January 2019)

6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Instructor: Ben Wang