Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden

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Photograph of pages from book depicting instructions for drawving leaves
Teaching how to draw leaves

Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden (芥子園畫傳, Jieziyuan Huazhuan), sometimes known as Jieziyuan Huapu (芥子園畫譜), is a printed manual of Chinese painting compiled during the early-Qing Dynasty. Many renowned later Chinese painters, like Qi Baishi, began their drawing lessons with the manual. It is an important early example of colour printing.

The work was commissioned by Shen Xinyou (沈心友), son-in-law of the famous playwright Li Yu, whose mansion in Lanxi, Zhejiang province was known as Jieziyuan, or Mustard Seed Garden. Shen possessed the teaching materials of Li Liufang (李流芳), a painter of the late-Ming dynasty, and commissioned Wáng Gài (王概), Wáng Shī (王蓍), Wáng Niè (王臬) and Zhū Shēng (诸升) to edit and expand those materials with the aim of producing a manual for landscape painting. The result was the first part of Jieziyuan Huazhuan, which, published in 1679 in five colours, comprises five juan () or fascicles. Li Yu, as the publisher, wrote a preface for this part. The first fascicle deals with the general principles of landscape painting, the second the painting of trees, the third that of hills and stones, the fourth that of people and houses, and the fifth comprises the selected works of great landscape painters.

Scan of page from book depicting lotus flowers drawing
"Jieziyuan Huazhuan Lotus Flowers", Mustard Seed Garden Painting Manual
Scan of page from book depicting instructions for drawing people
Teaching how to draw people

The volume also entered Edo period Japan, where woodblock printed copies became relatively easily accessible in all the major cities; the Mustard Seed Garden Manual came to be used by a great many Japanese artists and was a major element in the training of artists and the development of Edo period painting.

Two more parts, which deal with the painting of flora and fauna, were produced by Wang and his two brothers and published 1701. Shen promised a fourth part, but never published it. A fourth part, which deals with portraits, was produced by some quick profit-seeking publisher, though. Chao Xun (巢勛) (1852–1917), dissatisfied with the fake, produced his own sequel, as well as carefully reproduced the first three volumes. Reprints of the first three volumes are usually based on Chao's reproduction.

An English translation of the work, The Tao of Painting – A study of the ritual disposition of Chinese painting. With a translation of the Chieh Tzu Yuan Hua Chuan or Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting 1679–1701, was made by Mai-mai Sze and published in New York in 1956.


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