The Mustard Seeds Garden Manual of Painting is the most influential painting book in last three hundred years in China, Japan, and Korea. Compiled by a Nanjing painter Wang Gai(or Wang Kai, 1650-1700). the first edition of 1679 consists of an introductory essay on the general principles and use of color in Chinese painting, followed by four illustrated sections on landscape. In 1701, Wang's two brothers added new sections on birds and flowers painting. Here is Wang Gai's original version without the figure painting book by Ding Hezhou's added by Chao Xun's publishing house in late 19th century. It comes with a hard dust cover and in four hand-bound volumes, included some colored pages(see pictures).
Volume I: Trees and Rocks Manuals
Volume II: Figures and Houses, Landscape Samples
Volume III: Orchid, Bamboo and Plum Manuals,
Volume IV: Chrysanthemum, Birds and Flowers, Painting Samples
Dimension 8-1/8" X 10-1/4"
Total pages: 628
Henry Li's Recommendation Note:
This book is where I started to learn Chinese painting. In the summer of 1974 my mother borrowed volume 3 of this book from someone and I loved it so I took the whole summer time to copy it from page to page with transparent copy paper. Later I learned from a hand-painted copy on rice paper by teacher Han Shaoying and still treasured a few pages of it today.
As an experienced Chinese brush painting teacher myself now I strongly recommend this book for both beginner and advanced sumi-e or Chinese painting students because it is the mother of all Chinese painting textbooks. You may have collected many books on Chinese brush painting or sumi-e but if you overlooked this book you have missed the most fundamental one. It needs to be pointed out the original full Chinese version of the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting contains four volumes and hundreds more pictorial pages which than monograph of Mai-mai Sze's English translation. My recommendation is to get both a set of the Chinese full version and the English translation. So you will have complete painting samples to look at and practice with.
Here is the link to its English translation at Amazon: **It is NOT included in the package!**
"Among those who study painting, some strive for an elaborate effect and others prefer the simple.Neither complexity in itself nor simplicity is enough.
Some aim to be deft, others to be laboriously careful.Neither dexterity nor conscientiousness is enough.
Some set great value on method, while others pride themselves on dispensing with method.To be without method is deplorable, but to depend entirely on method is worse.
You must learn first to observe the rules faithfully; afterwards, modify them according to your intelligence and capacity.The end of all method is to seem to have no method."
"...If you aim to dispense with method, learn method
...if you aim at facility, work hard
...If you aim for simplicity, master complexity."
Wang Gai, the Editor of the Mustard Seeds Garden Manual of Painting
| French translation:|| The text of this Chinese painting classic has been translated into French in 1918 as Kiai-Tseu-Yuan Houa Tchouan, Encyclopédie de la Peinture Chinoise by Petrucci, Raphael. See also here for an e-book version.|