This blog post was contributed by Luo Zhou, Chinese Studies Librarian, International & Area Studies Department, Duke University Libraries.
A beautiful silk painting has just been hung above the microfilm cabinet across from the Gillespie East Asia Reading Room. The work of an unknown artist, this contemporary Japanese silk painting (16.5” x 48” with frame) is a replica of a famous Chinese painting called Evening Bell from Mist-Shrouded Temple (煙寺晚鐘圖) by the Chan Buddhist monk painter Muqi (Muxi) 牧谿 (1207–1291), who lived towards the end of the Southern Song Dynasty period (1127-1279). Muqi is the art name (Hao 號) of the monk’s Dharma name (Fachang 法常). He was initially from Sichuan and later moved to Hangzhou, the capital of Southern Song Dynasty. Although he was not very well known in his lifetime, he is today widely recognized as the predecessor of Chinese Chan (Japanese: Zen) Buddhist painting.
Art historians generally agree that Chan painting in China developed in the thirteenth century. Chan Buddhist painters used the same tools and techniques created and refined by generations of Chinese artists, but they applied these means in the Chan spirit, which could be explained as the abundance of emptiness or the nothing of Being.
Muqi received a more immediate recognition in Japan. His works were collected and brought from China to Japan. Evening Bell from Mist-Shrouded Temple is one of his surviving works from the original set of Eight View of the Xiao and Xiang River (瀟湘八景) paintings. It is currently housed at Hatakeyama Memorial Museum of Fine Art (畠山記念館) in Tokyo, Japan. The painting is found to be listed in the Ashikaga Shugunate collection. The collector, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義滿, 1358-1408), the military ruler in Japan, was passionate about Muqi’s paintings. His collection catalog listed 134 works of Muqi. Evening Bell from Mist-Shrouded Temple used to be displayed in his tea room. His seal as a collector (道有) shown below, is one important key to link this silk painting with Muqi’s original art work.
It is unknown exactly how the contemporary Japanese version of the Muqi painting arrived at Duke University, but we do know that it was most likely first hung in the office of University Librarian Jerry D. Campbell, who worked at Duke from 1984 to 1995. For a long time after Campbell’s departure, this objet d’art was housed in an office in Lilly Library, on Duke’s East Campus.
This Japanese silk painting is now located above the microfilm cabinet and next to the religion section of the East Asian collection, where books on Buddhism, Daoism, and other Asian religious forms and practices can be found.
Please stop by and take a look!