Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wang Shih-min

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WANG Shih-min 王時敏 (ming before 1603 贊虞, T. 遜之, H. 烟客, 偶諧道人, 懦齋, 西田主人, 歸村老農, 西廬老人), Sept. 18, 1592–1680, July 12, landscape painter and calligrapher, was a native of T'ai-ts'ang, Kiangsu. He came of a distinguished family; his grandfather, Wang Hsi-chüeh 王錫爵 (T. 元馭, chin-shih of 1562, posthumous name 文肅, 1534–1611), was a Grand Secretary in the Ming period; and his father, Wang Hêng 王衡 (T. 辰玉, H. 緱山, chin-shih of 1601, 1561–1609, Mar. 4), was a compiler in the Hanlin Academy and was also known as a dramatist. As a boy Wang Shih-min was brought up by his grandfather and received instruction from the famous painter and calligrapher, Tung Ch'i-ch'ang [q. v.]. His grandfather, who was a well-known collector of paintings, was delighted with his talents and collected a large number of masterpieces for him to imitate. Wang Shih-min was especially fond of the works of the eminent landscape painter of the Yuan period, Huang Kung-wang (see under Tung Ch'i-ch'ang), and penetrated his art deeply. He was also a noted calligrapher, being skilled in the li-shu style (see under Ho Shao-chi). Because of his grandfather's merits, he was appointed in 1614 a secretary to the Keeper of Seals (尚寶司), and in 1624 was made Keeper. In this capacity he went to different provinces to present seals to the feudal princes or to their descendants. In 1636 he was promoted to the post of sub-director of the Court of Sacrificial Worship which he held for three years, and then retired because of illness. The fall of the Ming dynasty in 1644 did not greatly disturb his routine. The Prince of Fu (see under Chu Yu-sung) twice summoned him to be director of the Court of Sacrificial Worship at Nanking but he declined. He lived in peaceful contemplation of nature, engaged in painting and in writing verse. In 1663 he asked Chang Jan [q. v.], the landscape artist, to replant his garden, where he intended to spend his last days. At this time he also maintained as family actors a group of boys who were taught by the famous teacher of dramatic singing and acting, Su K'un-shêng 蘇崑生, a name made immortal in the drama, T'ao-hua shan (see under K'ung Shang-jên).

In the history of Chinese painting Wang Shihmin is recognized as one of the great masters of the early Ch'ing period. He is known to artists as one of the Four Wangs (四王), the other three being Wang Chien, Wang Hui, and Wang Yüan-ch'i [qq. v.]. The first of the three was a relative; the last was his grandson. Most of his nine sons were poets as well as painters. His second son, Wang K'uei (see under Wang Yüan-ch'i), was a chin-shih of 1655, and his eighth son, Wang Shan [q. v.], was a famous Grand Secretary in the late K'ang-hsi period.

The collected works of Wang Shih-min, entitled 西田集 Hsi-t'ien chi, have perhaps never been printed. A collection of his colophons, entitled 烟客題跋 Yen-k'o t'i-pa, in 2 chüan, was edited by Li Yü-fên 李玉棻 and printed in 1910. A short article, 奉常家訓 Fêng-ch'ang chia-hsün, being Wang's instructions to his family in 1670, was printed in the collectanea 婁東雜著 Lou-tung tsa-chu (latest preface 1839).


[西廬先生年譜 Hsi-lu hsiem-shêng nien-p'u (unpublished), condensed by Ku Wên-pin 顧文彬 (T. 子山, H. 蔚如, 1811–1889), and printed in 過雲樓書畫記 Kuo-yün lou shu-hua chi (1882); 1/509/1a; 2/70/44b; 3/426/33a; 3/428/35a; 20/1/21a, (with portrait); 國華 Kokka, vol. 24, no. 285, p. 191; Waley, An Index of Chinese Artists, p. 95; Tomioka Kenzō 富岡謙藏, 四王吳惲 Shiō-goun (not consulted). L.T.C.L.H.M., p. 41; T'oung Pao (1909) p. 518.]

R. O. Suter