Wen Tong

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Bamboo in Monochrome Ink. National Palace Museum, Taiwan

Wen Tong (Chinese: 文同; pinyin: Wén Tóng; Wade–Giles: Wen T'ung) (1019–1079)[1] was a Northern Song painter born in Sichuan[2] famous for his ink bamboo paintings. He was one of the paragons of "scholar's painting" (shi ren hua), which idealised spontaneity and painting without financial reward.[citation needed]

He could hold two brushes in one hand and paint two different distanced bamboos simultaneously.[citation needed] One Chinese idiom in relation to him goes "there are whole bamboos in his heart" (胸有成竹), meaning that one has a well-thought-out plan in his mind.

As did many artists of his era, Wen Tong also wrote poetry. As attested in his poems, he had at least one golden-hair monkey (金丝狨) and a number of pet gibbons, whose graceful brachiation he admired. An elegy written by him upon the death of one his gibbons has been preserved in the collection of his works.[3]


  1. ^ Barnhart, Page 373. Wen Tong's style name was Yuke (与可) with several sobriquets: Jinjiang Daren(锦江道人), Xiaoxiao Jushi (笑笑居士), and Shishi Xiansheng (石室先生)
  2. ^ Ci hai, Page 1533.
  3. ^ Robert van Gulik, The gibbon in China. An essay in Chinese animal lore. E.J. Brill, Leiden, Holland. (1967). Pages 77-79. The book includes the original text of Wen Tong's elegy and van Gulik's translation.


  • Barnhart, R. M. et al. (1997). Three thousand years of Chinese painting. New Haven, Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07013-6
  • Ci hai bian ji wei yuan hui (辞海编辑委员会). Ci hai (辞海). Shanghai: Shanghai ci shu chu ban she (上海辞书出版社), 1979.