Huntington Adds a Chinese Landscape

Qiu Ying,  Zhou Dunyi Admiring Lotuses, about 1530s, ink and colors on silk, 45 3/4 x 22 7/8 in. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens

The Huntington has acquired a Chinese landscape scroll painting by Qiu Ying, the Ming dynasty artist who was the subject of a critically praised 2020 LACMA exhibition. Qiu is one of the "four masters of the Ming," along with Shen Zhou, Tang Yin, and Wen Zhengming. The scroll, titled Zhou Dunyi Admiring Lotuses, becomes the first important Chinese painting at the Huntington and (as far as I can tell) the only Qiu painting in a local collection. June and Simon K.C. Li supplied the funds for the purchase. She was the Chinese garden's founding curator, and he's a former L.A. Times editor who sits on the Huntington board. 

The painting shows Song dynasty philosopher Zhou Dunyi, best known for saying that the individual should rise above the world's corruption, as the lotus raises its blooms above the mud. Even in the West, the metaphor has inspired motivational posters and the title of HBO's The White Lotus. The Huntington's Chinese garden has a lotus pond similar to the painting's and a Love for the Lotus Pavilion named in homage to Zhou.

LACMA's pandemic-shortened 2020 exhibition was titled "Where the Truth Lies: The Art of Qiu Ying." That refers to Qiu's reputation as the most forged painter in Chinese history, with hundreds or even thousands of copies believed to exist for each original work. The Huntington press release calls Zhou Dunyi Admiring Lotuses "one of the few surviving authentic works by the artist" and "in exceptional condition for its age." The painting bears Qiu’s signature and two seals. One seal, “Immortal of Shizhou 十洲㒨史” implies a mid-career date in the 1530s.

The scroll was recently offered by London dealership Sydney L. Moss Ltd, which published it in 1988.

The Qiu appears to open a new chapter in the Huntington's collection. Arabella Huntington took an interest in Chinese ceramics. Otherwise the Huntington has been known for its Japanese- and Chinese-style gardens. In 2014 the Huntington bought a near-complete copy of the Ten Bamboo Studio Manual, a 1633 color woodblock-printed how-to book for artists. Ten Bamboo and the Mustard Seed Garden Manual will be on display this fall in the Chinese Garden's small gallery, the Studio for Lodging the Mind. A rare Song Dynasty printed book is currently on view for the first time in the Huntington Library. The Qiu scroll stands apart as a unique painting by one of the most inventive artists of his age. 

Zhou Dunyi Admiring Lotuses will go on view in the Huntington Gallery from Dec. 9, 2023, to Mar. 4, 2024. It will be in a room of its own, in proximity to landscapes by Constable, Turner, and Hockney.