Wang Wei

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Wang Wei

(wäng wā), 699–759, Chinese poet. He was an extremely versatile man, being a musician and painter as well as a poet. He wrote quatrains almost exclusively; these verses portray quiet scenes like those depicted in the few surviving paintings attributed to him. Wang Wei's delicate landscapes, famed for their depiction of water and mist, were drawn in black ink. He is considered the first master of atmosphere and the founder of Southern Chinese landscape art. After many years of service at court, he is thought to have retired to a Buddhist monastery after the death of his wife. His poems were translated (1959) by Chang Yin-nan and L. C. Walmsley.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wang Wei


(also Mo-chieh). Born 699 or 701, in T’ai-yüan; died 759 or 761, in Hsian. Chinese poet, painter, calligrapher, and musician.

Wang Wei was born into the family of a wealthy official. He received a Confucian education and served at court. He was the censor and the editor of imperial decrees. He studied Buddhism. His early poems (Girl of Loyang, At the Chrysanthemum Festival, and others) bear witness to his rare talent. He was one of the founders of the “landscape lyric” school. A poet and painter, Wang Wei subtly observed in his verses the barely discernible tints and shades of nature (Red Beans, The Path Among the Acacias, Shore With Dogwood Thickets). Social motifs are expressed in the poet’s dreams about an ideal state. Wang Wei wrote works on historical themes (The Widow of Prince Hsi, Pan Chiehyü, and others) that were perfect in poetic form and had already become popular songs in his lifetime (for example, Red Beans). He was the founder of monochrome landscape painting. He did silk paintings and murals. Making use of the tonal possibilities of india ink, transparent washes, and a sketch stroke, Wang Wei created lyrical landscapes and exalted generalized images of nature. Copies of his works have been preserved: River Under Snow, Hills Under Snow (both in the Kukung Museum, Peking), and Portrait of Fu Sheng of Chinan and After the Snowfall (private collection, Japan).


In Russian translation:
Stikhotvoreniia. Moscow-Leningrad, 1959.


Ho, Yüeh-chih. Wang Wei. Shanghai, 1959


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.