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31) Cheng Ssu-hsiao (1239-1316). Ink Orchids. Short handscroll; ink on paper. Signed, dated 1306. Early Yuan. This short scroll, painted in the abbreviated Ch'an style of late Southern Sung, shows how this style could be adapted even to the expression of political protest. The painter's inscribed poem at right alludes to the Mongol conquest of the Sung dynasty. The lack of a ground plane in the painting supposedly refers t6 the fact that the Mongol invaders have taken the legitimate Sung dynasty "land." The fragrant orchids (ie. scholars loyal to the Sung) now have no support. Such highly allusive, "coded" readings of paintings were common in the late Sung-Yuan transition period. Cheng Ssu-hsiao was a literatus and not a major painter, but this composition shows the easy adaptability of the Ch'an brush style to all manner of expression. The poem and the date to the left of the orchid are block printed, and there are several contemporary copies of this work. These facts have led scholars to suggest that they may have been "mass produced." A number of "forms" with date and poem were printed up, then Cheng executed the orchids personally at the marketplace for customers who purchased them. Many Sung literati were forced to sell artwork to survive under the Mongol occupation.

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