Chinese art and Shen Quan: A brief period in Japan but a lasting legacy
Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Edo Period (1603-1868) is known for keeping foreign people out and gradually closing the country. However, the past cultural bonds that shaped Japanese high culture preserved. Hence the small window of Nagasaki enabled a limited opportunity for Shen Quan (Nanpin) to preserve continuity, even if the scale was dramatically reduced.
Shen was known for his realistic art of animals, birds, and flowers. Luckily, patrons enabled him to blossom while he was influenced by Bian Jingzhao and Lu Ji in his native country. Therefore, is invite to Nagasaki enabled Shen to develop further because cultural interaction benefitted all concerned.
His time in Nagasaki (1731-1733) was brief. Despite this, the small window of opportunity enabled a Japanese legacy to emerge. In time, Kumashiro Yuhi would further the knowledge he learned from Shen based on his links to So Shiseki and Kakutei. Other Japanese artists would also gain inspiration from Shen to various degrees long after he parted from this world.
In another article, I comment, “The limited opportunities faced by Shen – and the briefness of the window that was open through the medium of Nagasaki – still didn’t hinder his cultural legacy. Therefore, while some Japanese artists came to respect and adore his art; his disciples in China would also view Nagasaki from their respective thought patterns. This notably applies to Gao Jun, Gao Qian, and Zheng Pei.”
Small windows of Chinese, Dutch, and Japanese culture would pervade in all directions. Of course, the real power dynamics and religious and philosophical convulsions remained distant. Hence, the mirage of Nagasaki in the Edo Period was also a mirage of real convulsions that were shaping societies.
Despite this, limited cultural links broke many chains of distrust and separation. Thus new artistic dynamics transcended different cultural upbringings, even if this impact was limited compared with the pre-Edo period.
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