Zhang Sengyou (Chinese: 张僧繇, Zhāng Sēngyóu) was a famous
Liang dynasty painter the ink style in the reign of Emperor Wu of
His birth and death years are unknown, but he was active circa
490–540. He was a native Wu commandery (now Suzhou, Jiangsu
Background and reputation
Sengyou was a member of Zhang clan of Wu, one of the four prominent
clans in the Southeastern commandery of Wu.
According to Tang dynasty art critic Zhang Yanyuan's "Notes of Past
Famous Paintings", Sengyou served as an official during the reign of
Emperor Wu of Liang. He was the director of the imperial library and
was also in charge of any painting related affairs in the court of
Emperor Wu. Later, Sengyou served the country as the general of right
flank army and the governor of Wuxing Commandery. His works were
rated the finest quality by Zhang Yanyuan. He also listed Zhang's
artistic style as one of the four "Standards" of the traditional
Chinese paintings (The other three artists were Gu Kaizhi, Lu Tanwei
and Wu Daozi).
Yao Zui, an art critic in Chen Dynasty, described Zhang as a diligent
painter who paints "without the notion of day and night".
Zhang was especially skillful in depicting human or animal figures.
According to the History of the Southern Dynasties, Sengyou painted a
portrait for Prince Wuling, one of the sons of Emperor Wu of Liang.
After viewing his son's portrait, the Emperor was amazed by the
verisimilitude of Zhang's painting.
Buddhism with all its iconography, came to China from India, bringing
with it to China a Western influence at one remove. Pictorial forms
thus acquired a certain three-dimensional quality. Zhang Sengyou,
working in the early sixth century, painted large murals of Buddhist
shrines in Nanjing. He was one of the first to use these influences
with happy results. He was also well known for landscapes,
especially snow scenery, with a reputation for the so-called
"boneless" technique (mogu).
Zhang is also associated with a famous story. It is said that one day,
having painted four dragons on the walls of a temple, he did not mark
the pupil, not by negligence but prudence; however, one person,
unwilling to heed Zhang's warnings, painted in the eye of two dragons,
who immediately fled to heaven riding on clouds with crashing thunder.
Marking the eyes of dragons opens their eyes and gives them life. The
spirit is fleeting, omnipresent, so that grasping and fixing it in a
painting gives his work an uncanny power of suggestion.
"The Five Stars and 28 Heavenly Abodes" Osaka Municipal Museum
"Bring the Painted Dragons to Life by Putting Pupils in Their Eyes"
^ Notes of Past Famous Paintings. People's arts Press. 2004.
^ Lee, Yu-min (2001). Art History of Chinese Buddhism. p. 32.
^ 續畫品. Shanxi Education Press. ISBN 9787544058650.
^ History of the Southern Dynasties. Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company.
1975. ISBN 9787101003178.
^ a b Wan, Shengnan (2007). 魏晋南北朝文化史. Dongfang Press
Center. p. 270. ISBN 9787801865823.
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