"A Preliminary Discussion of the
Meaning of Haipai"
Gugong bowuyuan yuankan 1998.2, 43-50
[reprinted from China Archaeology and Art Digest 3:2/3 (January
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There is considerable controversy over the term Haipai, some
scholars believing that it refers to a group of artists from a particular
region, others that it denotes a similarity of artistic style between
the members of a group. According to Hu Haichao, "the later Haipai,
a Shanghai school of artists that flourished in the late Qing and early
Republican period, was the most influential in the history of the fine
arts in Shanghai," and the most representative figures in this
school are said to have been Zhao Zhiqian, Wu Junqing, Ren Yi, Xugu,
Pu Hua, Hu Gongshou, Qing Hui'an and Lu Hui.
Shan Guoqiang begins by looking at the purported members of the group
and their activities, the direction of their artistic creativity and
their form of expression to determine whether or not the Haipai
actually constituted an artistic school in the strict sense of the word,
and whether or not the term can be applied to Shanghai artists of the
jindai period, defined by the author as the period from 1840,
the year of the outbreak of the First Opium War, to 1916, the year of
the New Culture Movement. He goes on to examine the source and definitive
meaning of the term.
By the mid-Qing period, Shanghai was already a thriving economic and
cultural centre, and in the later part of the dynasty saw the appearance
of a number of renowned calligraphers and painters, including Dong Qichang
and Mo Shilong, and a group of artistic schools such as the Yunjian-pai
and Susong-pai which were collectively known as the Songjiang huapai.
A number of academies engaged in cultural and educational activities,
e.g., Shenjiang Shuyuan were established in Shanghai during the Qianlong
period, in addition to painting and calligraphy societies, the first
of which was the Pingyuan-shanfang Shuhua-hui, organised by Li Yanjing
(?-1806). The society attracted painters such as Gai Qi, Kang Kai, Qu
Zhongrong and Fang Kai, and according to the author the group already
differed from the elegant gatherings of literati and artistic schools
of the past in its scope of membership, range of activities and in its
influence. Such differences reflected the city's change from a traditional
to a commercial centre: 1. Such societies had a fixed organisational
structure and site for activities. There was a director and members
and a wide range of artists joined the groups and supported their activities.
2. The activities of the group were no longer limited to sharing views
on art, but were conducted for the mutual benefit of the members and
included guidance, support and promotion. 3. The artistic origins and
styles of expression of the artists who joined such groups were very
varied, as were the forms of communication between them. This was entirely
different from the artistic schools whose members came together because
of a similarity of interest. For example, in the Pingyuan-shanfang group
Gai Qi was a professional painter of gentlewomen (shinu hua,
conventionally translated as paintings of court ladies), Kang Kai came
from a family of artisans and was a portrait painter, and Qu Zhongrong
was a seal carver, calligrapher and freehand painter of flowers.
By the 1850s Shanghai was the centre of China's overseas trade and in
the 1860s the commercial and industrial system of the jindai
period began to be established. The Taiping Rebellion also resulted
in the gentry and rich merchants from the Zhejiang region moving to
Shanghai to seek protection in the foreign concessions, and by 1862
there were 500,000 Chinese living in the concession areas. Trade and
commerce flourished and at the turn of the century Shanghai was also
China's largest, most populous city. Western influence, and the introduction
from the West of scientific advances such as railways, steamship and
electricity also spurred the modernisation of the city. The heady atmosphere
of prosperity, innovation and diversity naturally influenced culture
and the arts, and this was reflected to different degrees in the traditional
arts. As a result, it was inevitable that new artistic concepts and
schools should arise.
Along with its increasing prosperity, Shanghai also became the centre
for professional painters seeking to make a living. Some, like Hu Yuan,
were helped by rich businessmen, others by friends, wile others, for
example, Ren Yi who soon earned a reputation for the fans he painted
for the Guxiang-wu Fan Emporium, fulfilled orders for companies trading
in calligraphy and paintings. Some painters, including Xugu, also sold
directly on the streets or in markets. However, the calligraphy and
painting societies still formed an important linchpin connecting these
"independent" artists, and provided not only an opportunity
for interaction between them but also an ideal venue for marketing works
of art. At the beginning of the 20th century these societies were composed
of groups of professional artists who drew together for their own mutual
benefit. The author cites the Pinghua-she Shuhua-hui, established in
1862, as typical of such societies at this time. The leader was Cheng
Songlin, and the society had 24 members, including Cheng Shixian, Tao
Shaoyuan and Zhou Xian. The influential tijin-guan Jinshi- shuhua-hui
established in the mid-Guangxu period was also of assistance in commercial
undertakings, and the majority of professional painters, calligraphers
and epigraphers living in Shanghai were members. The society ceased
its activities in 1916. The Yuyuan Shuhua-shanhui founded in 1909 was
more highly organised, had a greater number of regulations and could
be classified as a guild-like organisation. This society had around
100 members. According to the author, these and other similar societies
founded in the early 20th century had the following features: 1. The
majority of artists living in Shanghai belonged to one of these societies
and they came to adopt a guild-like form of organisation. They also
created the conditions for the development of similarities in style.
2. The societies had already become substantially commercial organisations,
and by promoting the artists and through their activities they increased
contacts between the artists and society. They also led to the artists'
works having a strong urban cultural flavour. 3. The open communications
between the artists led to different traditional forms and styles converging,
so that Shanghai paintings had a certain similarity, although they retained
a strong sensed of individuality.
The author thus concludes that Shanghai art did not develop solely on
the basis of tradition but was subject to both Chinese and Western cultural
influences. Likewise, artists from the are were not a stylistically
similar group who depended on a famous master as their mentor, but had
different teachers and totally different techniques. Thus, from the
perspective of traditional schools they did not constitute a different
group but, against the same regional and cultural background and during
the same period, they developed certain new common characteristics.
The term "Haipai" can equally well be applied to other
areas of the culture, such as literature and opera which were also subject
to the same process of modernisation, Westernisation and commercialisation,
and should not be applied exclusively to artists from the Shanghai area.
The term Haipai first appeared in the late Qing period and was
applied to Ren Yi and Qian Hui'an. However, the term was also used by
Zhang Zuyi, not as a general reference to artist from the Shanghai region,
but more specifically as a pejorative to describe the style of certain
artists. During the Republican period, the term continued to be used
in a critical sense with regard to less important artists, but was also
applied in general to artists form the Shanghai area, and to Zhao Zhiqian,
Wu Changshuo and the two artists mentioned above. In the early decades
of the 20th century it was also used with reference to opera and literature,
and was also expanded to include numerous other famous Shanghai artists.
It can thus be seen that the term Haipai is not equivalent to
the traditional term "liupai," school or sect, but
is much broader in meaning and denoted a type of art based on an urban
cultural model of the jindai period.
Gu Yanlong, Shanghai fengwu zhi (Shanghai wenwu chubanshe, 1982).
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