Tang Yin




Tang Yin (1470-1524), better known by his courtesy name Tang Bohu was a Chinese scholar, painter, calligrapher, and poet of the Ming Dynasty period whose life story has become a part of popular lore. Even though he was born during Ming Dynasty, Many of his paintings (especially paintings of people) were illustrated with elements from Pre-Tang to Song Dynasty (12th centuries).Tang Yin (1470-1523) is one of the most notable painters in Chinese art history. He is one of the painting elite "the Four Masters of Ming Dynasty" (Ming Si Jia), which also includes Shen Zhou (1427-1509), Wen Zhengming (1470-1559) and Qiu Ying (ca. 1495-1552). Tang is also a talented poet. Together with his contemporaries Wen Zhengming (1470-1559), Zhu Yunming (1460-1526), and Xu Zhenqing, known as the "Four Literary Masters of the Wuzhong Region."

Tang emerged from the vital merchant class of Suzhou, at a very low economic level of the son of a restaurant operator. Contrary to some accounts, he seems to have studied assiduously during his youth, paying little attention to the worldly charms. His genius, which would later gain him renown as the supreme talent of the Jiangnan area (Southern China), soon drew him into the wealthy, powerful, and talented circles of Suzhou. Wen Zhengming became his friend; Wen's father, Wen Lin (1445-1499), acted as something of a patron, making the right connections for him.

He was a brilliant student and became the protégé of Wen Lin. His friends in Suzhou’s scholarly circles included Shen Zhou, Wu Kuan (1436–1504) and Zhu Yunming. In 1498 Tang Yin came first in the provincial examinations in Nanjing, the second stage in the civil service examination ladder. The following year he went to the capital to sit the national examinations, but he and his friend Xu Jing (?- 1507) were accused of bribing the servant of one of the chief examiners to give them the examination questions in advance. All parties were jailed, and Tang Yin returned to Suzhou in disgrace, his justifiably high hopes for a distinguished civil service career dashed forever.

Denied further official progress, he pursued a life of pleasure and earned a living by selling his paintings. That mode of living brought him into disrepute with a later generation of artist-critics (for example, Dong Qichang) who felt that financial independence was vital to enable an artist to follow his own style and inspiration. While Tang is associated with paintings of feminine beauty, his paintings (especially landscapes) otherwise exhibit the same variety and expression of his peers and reveal a man of both artistic skill and profound insight.

Tang Yin perfected an admirable hand in semi-cursive script (also known as running script). His poems touch on themes which people like Wen Zhengming or the older Shen Zhou would have never taken up. Tang seems compelled to deal with the base elements in man - envy, venality, and cupidity. Tragic unfulfillment, driven by belief in the relentlessness of fate and the bitterness of the ultimate truth imbues his more thoughtful poems. At times he is overcome by tragic sorrow for the loss of childlike innocence; at times even love is fraught with ruin and unhappiness. Those poems which do manage to begin on an optimistic note often end on a note of regret.