April 1st, 2015

Dragon Chi

One earns more from painting bamboo than planting bamboo

While researching the life of Wang Yiting, painter, tycoon and philanthropist, I came across a Qing-era commentary on the art market, penned by Zheng Xie in 1759:

"'A large hanging scroll costs six taels, a medium-sized one is four, a small scroll costs two. Couplet and streamer are one tael a pair, while fan and album leaf are a half-tael each. Those who bring gifts and food are certainly not as welcome as those who come with silver, because what you give is not necessarily what I desire. If you come with cash my heart will be filled with joy, so the paintings and calligraphy will be excellent. Gifts cause nothing but trouble, not to mention deferred payment. Furthermore, in my old age, I get easily tired. So please excuse me, gentlemen, from accompanying you in unprofitable conversations."

He ends with a poem:

"One earns more from painting bamboo than planting bamboo;
A painting six feet tall costs three thousand cash.
All the talk about old friendship or connections
Is like autumn wind blowing past my ears."


A painting by Wang Yiting