Dong Qichang (董其昌, 1555–1636), courtesy name Xuanzai (玄宰), was a Chinese painter, scholar, calligrapher, and art theorist of the later period of the Ming Dynasty. Dong Qichang was born to a poor but scholarly family. He passed the jinshi (“advanced scholar”) examination at the age of thirty-five and was appointed to the first of a series of official positions within the Ming government.
Dong Qichang’s own calligraphy followed the style of the eminent calligraphers Zhao Mengfu (趙孟頫) and Wen Zhengming (文徵明) and, ultimately, of masters of the Jin and Tang dynasties. Like the former two artists, his creative approach was conscientious, disciplined, scholarly, and systematic, seeking out the spirit rather than slavishly reproducing the outward appearance of his models.
In his paintings, Dong Qichang especially favored the Four Masters of the Yuan Dynasty (Huang Gongwang 黃公望, Wu Zhen 吳鎮, Ni Zan 倪瓚, and Wang Meng 王蒙), who had both the selfless personality and the personal style indicative of the artist-scholar’s highest ideal. His paintings reveal his debt to them in both style and motif, yet he went considerably beyond them in banishing all immediate beauty from his art and stressing instead stark forms, seemingly anomalous spatial renderings, and clumsy handling of ink and brush. Dong Qichang’s writings appear on his art itself as well as in various compilations of his writings—including the anthologies Huayen (The Eye of Painting, 畫眼), Huazhi (The Meaning of Painting, 畫旨), and Huachanshi Suibi (Notes from the Painting-Meditation Studio [of Dong Qichang], 畫禪室隨筆).
Masterpieces by Dong Qichang (view the entire calligraphy gallery)