Capturing a monk's vision

By Lin Qi ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-06-30 07:23:25

Capturing a monk's vision

A painting titled Spring, summer, autumn, winter by Shi Dachan. [Photo/China Daily]

Chinese paintings are enriched by the legacies of artists who were Buddhist monks. Lin Qi interviews one to know why.

Buddhist monks who were also established artists have left an impressive mark on Chinese fine art. These famed figures included Zhu Da (or Bada Shanren), Huai Su and Li Shutong, to name a few.

"It would be boring if the monks were absent from the traditional art scene. It's like a huge garden with hundreds of flowers in full bloom, and the monks are the water lilies," says Shi Dachan, a Buddhist monk and painter. He spoke to China Daily on the sidelines of his solo exhibition at the National Art Museum of China in Beijing.

Shi, in his late 30s, lives a monastic life in a temple in Anhui province. For more than a decade, he has been following the steps of his great predecessors. He endeavors to conduct dual practices of Buddhism and traditional ink-and-water painting and calligraphy.

At the exhibition titled A Stroke of Zen, Shi displays his latest ink paintings and calligraphic scrolls. He converses in refined sensibilities with the spirit of nature, the truth of life and the world of Zen.

Shi declines to talk much about his past before converting to Buddhism, a common attitude among monks. But he does share with great relish how he traded play time for perfecting painting and calligraphic skills and reading in his teen years in Nangong, Hebei province, where he was born.

"Practicing and studying classic paintings, that was how I spent many school holidays and Spring Festivals," he says.

"People enthuse about achieving breakthroughs in the ink-and-water art. But I don't see a breakthrough of great significance to me. I never seek breakthroughs on purpose.

"The bottom line is, one should devote himself to the mastery of basic techniques day after day and year after year. He keeps painting what he wants to and is inspired to paint. Naturally, he will find the path that upgrades him to the highest level," Shi says.

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