Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Agony of Artists 艺术家的烦恼

Yan Liben (601? – 673) was a famous painter during the Tang period. He was reported to have painted ‘Portrait of Emperor Tao Zong’, ‘Eighteen Scholars’ etc. One day, while boating in the royal garden, Emperor Tai Zong noticed a strange bird in the water and ordered Yan to paint it. While other officials were enjoying the scenery, the painter was most unhappy because he had to be busy with his brushes. Upon returning home, he told his sons that they should not, from then on, to pursue a career as painters. Nevertheless, he himself could not give up painting.
In calligraphy, Wei Dan (179 – 253), who had been a student of Zhang Zhi, had encountered a more frightening experience at the age of 50 that caused him to turn against the art.
It was reported the emperor Ming built a lookout tower called ‘Ling Yun Tai’ (Touching Clouds Tower) and it was only after the tower had been completed that the builders realized that they had forgotten to write the inscription ‘Ling Yun Tai’ on the signboard before it was hung.
Being a famous calligrapher, Wei Dan was asked to write three characters in calligraphy on a signboard that was hung at the top of the tower some 250 feet above the ground in the air. Wei Dan was put into a big bamboo cage and lifted upwards, struggling all the while to balance a big bucket of ink and a big huge and heavy brush.
Once at the top, he was struck by the terror and unable to keep his balance. Wei Dan held his breath, wrote the three characters as quickly as possible and then fainted. When he was lowered down, the people saw that his hair and beard had turned white from the effort.
After reaching home, he called his children together and told that them he would never practice this dangerous and possibly deadly art of calligraphy again, and warned them do likewise.
阎立本(约601 - 673)是唐朝著名的画家。据说《太宗真容》、《秦府十八学士图》等画是他画的。一天,在皇家花园游船,太宗看到一只特别的鸟在水中,就命令他把它画出来。阎很不高兴,因为其他的官员都在欣赏美景,而他却忙于挥动画笔。回家后,他告诉他的儿子,此后不要以画画为职业。但是,他本身却不能放弃画画。
在书法界,张芝的学生韦诞(179 - 253)在50岁时所碰到的经验更为恐怖,导致他对这门艺术大为反感。

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