ZHANG DAQIAN (1899-1983)
Journey to Highway Hengguan
Scroll, mounted and framed, ink and colour on paper
103 x 50.7 cm. (40 1/2 x 20 3/4 in.)
Inscribed with a poem and signed, with two seals of the artist
Dedicated to Mengjian
This painting was a gift from Zhang Daqian to his friend of more than forty years, Cai Mengjian. On his way to Dunhuang in 1941, Zhang met the then mayor of Lanzhou, Cai. During the two years subsequent to their initial encounter, Cai took care of Zhang during his visits to Lanzhou, which Zhang was immensely grateful. Due to political instability, both fled China and lived in the USA and Taiwan but continued to keep in touch.
In the spring of 1960, the Central Cross-Island Highway connecting the East and West coast of Taiwan opened to the public, and the Taroko Gorge and surrounding National Park became an instant tourist attraction. Zhang and his wife returned from Brazil at the invitation of the organisers of the contruction of the highway. It was the first time Zhang stepped upon the highway; what was to be a one day trip turned into a three day visit around the gorge with his wife and friends Zhang Muhan, and Lang Jingshan, all the while praising the sights and beauty of surroundings. As Zhang Daqian expressed to: one of his travelling companions
"I have traveled the world and seen many beautiful sights, and have always thought the Swiss Alps matchless in grandeur and monumentality. However the ravine in Taiwan far exceeds the beauty of Switzerland, which pales in comparison."
- pp 410-411, Li Yongqiao, The Biography of Zhang Daqian, Huacheng Publishers, 1998.
Zhang also revealed to Cai that
"Khaving lived in America for the last five, six years, I am reminded of the deep affection I have for Taiwan during my yearly visits. The beauty of the land, the warmth of the people and the peacefulness here make me miss my homeland more and more. With Taiwan's rapid development every time I return, I am excited by its change but also saddened by it. I recall the time I traveled the Central Cross-Island Highway, I gave you a pomo painting, titled Journey to Highway Hengguan, which framed my current state of mind. Therefore I feel that homesickness is more than an emotion but is truly an illness, for I am always unwell in the States, but when I am in Taiwan, I feel refreshed and healthy."
- p.251, excerpt from Cai Mengjian, The Biography of Cai Mengjian, Chuanji Literary Publishers, 1981.
Inspired very much by his travels around the Central Cross-Island Highway, Zhang created many works as gift to his friends during his travels. The present one a perfect example of Zhang's mastery. Small roads, waterfalls and misty clouds are cleverly interspersed wtihin the gorge, mysterious and breath-taking. Zhang's articulate use of the brush and his signature splattered ink style (pomo) merge the essence of traditional ink painting with modern creativity, perfectly expressing the majesty and monumentality of the ravine.