Intangible Cultural Heritage of Henan Province—Zhu’s Landscape Painting

In China’s ancient architectures, colored painting plays a part and parcel role. Zhu’s Landscape Painting originated in the late Qing Dynasty and becomes popular in the whole region of Henan, north Hubei, north Jiangxi, east Shaanxi, Zhongshan of Guangdong, etc. The themes, content, and artistic forms of Zhu’s ancient architecture painting were all created to adapt to the characteristics of history, nationalities, religions, and folk beliefs and customs, thus being rich in profound regional features and religious and cultural feelings. Besides, this art also has a variety of forms, a wide range of themes, full composition, exaggerated appearance, concise lines, and bright colors.

Zhu’s Landscape Painting was created at the end of the Qing Dynasty and has come down in one continuous line with five generations, from Zhu Shixian, Zhu Yunhong, Zhu Peixiu, Zhu Yanlin to Zhu Changcun. Zhu Shixian (1844–1905) had built a painted clay sculpture of Dashi Temple outside of Nanguan, Runan and painted clay sculpture of the Town God Temple of Runan County. Zhu Yunhong, his successor, had constructed the painted clay sculptures for the Zhundi Building and Shuxiang Pavilion of Runan County and Wudang Mountain and passed his techniques on Zhu Peixiu, who managed to renovate the Bao’en Temple of Runan County, painted clay sculpture of Mulan Mountain in Huangpi, Hubei, and such sculptures of Wudang Mountain. Zhu Yanlin and Chen Xuelan had repaired the painted clay sculptures of the Dacheng Hall, Wenmiao Temple and the Academy on Tianzhong Mountain in Runan County, those in the Wenmiao of Zhengzhou, Yuefei Temple of Tangyin, Guandi Temple of Bali Bridge in Xuchang, and created the clay sculptures and landscape paintings of General Mulan Series at Mulan Mountain, Hubei, Hongyun Temple at Zhaoqing, Guangdong, and the Zhendian General Sculpture of Zhendian Pavilion, Zhongyue Temple. With those brilliant achievements, Zhu’s Landscape Painting is also respected as the miracle in this industry.

In Zhu’s Landscape Painting, the dragons in colorful clouds are different from those of official drawing. The former reveals unique appearances and styling, active and vivid feeling, carefully-sketched and colorfully-dyed dragon horns, hair in diverse green, embossed painting and gilded forehead, nose, and lips, black eyes with white decoration, sketched whiskers, fish-like belly with gradient-ramp pink colors, thorns in irregular sawtooth shape sketched in white, gold-sketched claws and dragon body with piled pink paint, scales with slightly piled pink paint, tail in two kinds of green colors and with pink color and black outline, joints embellished with red flowers, green leaves, and fire. The dragons are lifelike and vivid. The forms and styles are different from others too. There are six kinds of dragon patterns: fighting dragons, strolling dragons, squatting dragons, soaring dragons, diving dragons, and turning-around dragons. It also has distinctive flower, rolling grass and other decorations, including floating clouds and flowing water, turning around and playing a ball, perpetual prosperity and happiness, cloud and rolling grass, red lotus to Buddha, adding flowers to embroider, etc., The techniques, including the meticulously-use of green and blue, sketching the black color at the dark parts while the white where the light should be, are the unique features of Zhu’s Landscape Painting. The images boast strong third-dimension feeling, cleverly-allocated sparsity and density, and vivid flowers, birds, and rare animals. Besides, the miniatures of Zhu’s Landscape Painting are also exquisite with the exclusive skill of embossed painting and sketching, and the inheritors can draw dragons with cloud pattern, flowers, birds, and other rare animals with lines, as thin as hair, on paper board of several centimeters.

The Zhu’s Landscape Painting boasts unique regional characteristics of Henan. The skillfully-processed dizhang layer (coarse slurry layer and fine silt layer) is durable and lasts long thanks to the unique materials and formula. The colors are bright yet not gaudy. For example, the colored painting and wood-oil-covered decoration of Tangyin Yuefei Temple, Huaiyang Taihao Mausoleum, and Zhengzhou Town God Temple are still brand new though having been weathered for several tens of years, reflecting the tested techniques and materials of Zhu’s Landscape Painting. The artwork pieces are also vivid with rich content and great ornamental and utility value, adding to the splendid and luxury beauty of ancient buildings. Besides, some artistic images are also attractive for being carriers of the masters’ desire and aspiration.

In 2011, the Zhu’s Landscape Painting was listed in the third batch of the intangible cultural heritages of Henan Province.

Copyright by Zhengzhou Municipal Tourism Administration