Changing Evaluations of the Four Wangs During 20th-Century China

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link






This thesis examines the receptions of the Four Wangs during the Republican Period (1911 - 1949) and the People's Republic Period (1949 - present). Twentieth century China has witnessed great changes in its cultural landscape. With new ideas and technologies from the West, traditional Chinese painting has been reevaluated, and sometimes rejected. The Four Wangs of the Early Qing dynasty, seen as the last great achievement of Chinese painting in the literati tradition before the twentieth century, are under fierce debate. Whether the Four Wangs have any genuine creative achievement or are they mere imitators of the ancient masters is one of the central issues. But the debate on the Four Wangs also concerns greater cultural issues, such as whether China should embrace the Western realistic style in art in order to revolutionize Chinese painting. This thesis examines the evaluations of the Four Wangs and pays close attention to the opinions of prominent figures such as Kang Youwei, Chen Duxiu, Cai Yuanpei, Teng Gu, Chen Shizeng, Fu Baoshi, Hu Peiheng, Yu Jianhua, Huang Binhong, Xu Beihong, Tong Shuye, Wang Bomin, Nie Chongzheng, etc. By examining these figures' opinions of the Four Wangs, this thesis hopes to investigate the historical context of each argument, and identify the strategies each one employs to convince the opposing side.