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REN XIONG (1823-1857)
CHINESE PAINTING AND CALLIGRAPHY FROM THE DR. S. Y. YIP COLLECTION (LOTS 927-952)Anthology of Ink Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Dr. S. Y. Yip CollectionCollecting is a labour of love. A serious collector is not only good at acquiring quality works but also well-educated about each and every piece of his/her collection.Dr. S. Y. Yip started collecting in 1969 under the guidance of his fifth uncle Mr. H. G. Yip and Mr. C. T. Chiu. He was then introduced to the Min Chiu Society and later acquired a long handscroll Rivers Xiao and Xiang by Wang Chen (Lot 937) from the renowned Taiwanese collector Mr. Chiang Chao-Shen. This work shows the exquisite dry ink techniques of the artist. Through his acquaintance with Mr. Low Chuck Tiew(1911-1993), owner of the Xubaizhai, Dr. Yip purchased Landscape by Dong Qichang (Lot 930). And on one of their trips Dr. Yip acquired a Landscape album by Cheng Tinglu (Lot 947) at a hotel friendship store in Lanzhou. As time went by Dr. Yip’s knowledge in appreciation, authentication and collecting was greatly enhanced.Amongst his friends, collectors and connoisseurs, Dr. Yip has the fondest memories of the late Mr. Liu Jiu’an (1915-1999), a member of the State Committee on Authentication at the Palace Museum of Beijing. He has preciously kept all his correspondences with Mr. Liu, whom he treated as his mentor and bosom friend. Thanks to this relationship Dr. Yip further acquired Children at Play by Wang Su (Lot 943), Drinking Cards with Illustrations of Daoist Immortals by Ren Xiong (Lot 940), Landscape by Dai Dayou (Lot 936), Landscape by Cheng Fang (Lot 934), Calligraphy of Manuscripts by Jin and Tang Masters by Dong Qichang (Lot 929), Calligraphy in Running Script by Bi Yuan (Lot 944). The Drinking Cards with Illustrations of Daoist Immortals is particularly rare and important in terms of its place in the history of Chinese woodblock prints. This is one of the two gems of Dr. Yip’s collection; the other gem is Children at Play by Wang Su because of its superb quality. Another very special work from the collection is The Apricot Groves by the Qing master Gao Fenghan (Lot 927). Dated 1743, Gao executed this work with his left hand, as his right hand was paralyzed since 1738. It was dedicated to his doctor Zhao Chengfu, expressing gratitude for his treatment. Being a medical practitioner, Dr. Yip always has this painting in his mind.While Dr. Yip has later switched his collecting towards Ming furniture, his passion and quest for knowledge in Chinese paintings and calligraphy keep going on, making him a very serious and highly respected collector.Christie’s Hong Kong is very honoured to be entrusted by Dr. S. Y. Yip to present a total of 38 Chinese paintings and calligraphy in our Autumn 2019 sales. 26 classical works will be featured in this sale, and 12 modern paintings will be auctioned in our Fine Chinese Modern Paintings sale to be held on 26 November 2019 (Lots 1218-1231).
REN XIONG (1823-1857)

Drinking Cards with Illustrations of Daoist Immortals

Details
REN XIONG (1823-1857)
Drinking Cards with Illustrations of Daoist Immortals
Album of forty-seven leaves and one loose leaf
Each leaf measures 25 x 12 cm. (9 7/8 x 4 ¾ in.)
Each leaf inscribed and entitled a total of forty-eight names of the immortals
Entitled and signed on the first leaf, with one seal of the artist
Colophons by Yao Xie (1805-1864), Cao Xun (19th Century), Ren Qi (19th Century) and Lan Shufu (19th Century)
Four collector’s seals of Wang Zuyin
Literature
Anthology of Ink-Ancient Chinese Painting and Calligraphy from the Dr. S. Y. Yip Collection, University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2004, pp.129-135, pl. 39.
Drinking Cards illustrating Daoist Immortals by Ren Xiong from The Dr S Y Yip Collection (1&2), University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, September 2006.

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Lot Essay

The Multiple Significance of Ren Xiong’s
Drinking Cards with Illustrations of Daoist Immortals
Ren Xiong (1823-1857) scholar name Weichang, sobriquet Xiangpu, was a native of Xiaoshan, Zhejian province. He was a prolific artist who revolutionised traditional Chinese painting within his abbreviated career. As the founding leader of the Shanghai School of Chinese Painting, Ren championed a new mode of painting, which humbled the elitism of Chinese literati painters and celebrated the subject’s character and emotions, as exemplified in his Self-Portrait (c. 1856)– now held at the Palace Museum in Beijing, China.
However, when Ren began studying portraiture, the local village master became outraged by the young boy’s temerity in painting court people with a bald forehead and a raised foot, which was an extremely informal pose. In 1846, Ren shed the constraints of his dull hometown and travelled to neighbouring cities that had a more thriving cultural scene. Restless and eager to join the elevated artistic circles, Ren became acquainted with scholar-patron Zhou Xian (1820-1875) in 1848. Zhou was impressed by Ren’s talent in chanting and composing poetry and subsequently invited the young artist to stay at his studio, known as the Fanhu Thatched Cottage. For the next three years, Ren made numerous copies of Tang and Song paintings and studied the works of late-Ming master Chen Hongshou (1598-1652), who was a major stylistic influence on Ren’s figure paintings. By 1850, Ren encountered his second major patron Yao Xie (1805-1864), a famous Qing Dynasty poet and calligrapher who also welcomed Ren into his residence in Ningbo, Dameishanguan (Great Plum Mountain Hall). For about two months, the two began collaborating on one of Ren’s most important works: the 120-leaf Album after the Poems by Yao Xie. According to Ren the collaboration was a perfect harmony.
In the years leading up to his death in 1857, Ren had become a very popular painter. In collaboration with contemporary woodblock carvers like Cai Zhou (n. d.), he worked on four series of woodcut printed books, including Drinking Cards with Illustrations of Daoist Immortals, Portraits and Biographies of Illustrious Forebears from Yuyue, Portraits and Biographies of Ancient Masters, and Portraits and Biographies of Swordsmen. Ren’s inspiration behind the creation of Drinking Cards with Illustrations of Daoist Immortals stemmed from Chen Hongshou, who in the early seventeenth-century created his own set of woodblock-printed drinking cards – Water Margin Leaves. These cards were a mixed media work which combined the gambling rules of Chinese playing cards and drinking games with ancient history and folklore. They were multi-purpose playing cards that served to amuse guests with wit and humour at festive gatherings.
Ren’s Drinking Cards with Illustrations of Daoist Immortals is the last surviving masterpiece of the artist’s original drinking cards series. Bespoke cards for the tangbing (flat bread usually eaten in a feast following a birth) banquet celebrating the manyue (occasion of being one month old) of his son, Ren Yu (1854-1901), the artist created forty sets of drinking cards based on his forty-eight striking illustrations of immortals with a brief poetic inscription and an instruction to drink wine. Among the scenes is Xu Feiqiong – a female Daoist immortal who brought Xu Hun, a Tang Dynasty poet, up to see the immortals enjoying a night of drinking and banqueting through his dreams (See Top Right image of the next page). Ren took inspiration from this story, which can be found in Extensive Records of the Taiping Era, and wrote the following inscription: “The wind blows over the sound of voices. Those who have the same surname, each drink two cups.” What an amusing way to make guests drink more wine! The liveliness of Ren’s drinking cards derives from the entertaining relationship between text and image; his artistic mastery over creating fine, yet dramatic brushstrokes; and the depiction of bold and zesty characters.
Ren’s early death makes his works extremely rare and precious. After several reproductions, the original woodblocks of this lot was later found in Japan. This original album was first collected by Mr. Liu Jiu’an (1915-1999), who was a great connoisseur and member of the State Committee on Authentication in China. Eventually the album was acquired by Dr. S. Y. Yip under the mentorship and advice of Mr. Liu. In essence, Drinking Cards with Illustrations of Daoist Immortals represents not only a rich blend of Chinese culture, painting and poetry, but also a beautiful story about friendship and connoisseurship between Mr. Liu and Dr. Yip.

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