Wen Zhengming

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This is a Chinese name; the family name is Wen.
Wen Zhengming
Portrait of Wen Zhengming.jpg
Born (1470-11-28)November 28, 1470
Died 1559 (aged 88–89)[1]
Education Shen Zhou
Known for painting, calligraphy
Movement Wu School
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese 文徵明
Simplified Chinese 文征明
Wen Bi
Traditional Chinese 文璧
Simplified Chinese 文璧

Wen Zhengming (November 28, 1470–1559), born Wen Bi, was a leading Ming dynasty painter, calligrapher, poet, and scholar. He was regarded as one of the Four Masters of Ming painting.[2]


Wen Zhengming was born Wen Bi in present-day Suzhou on November 28, 1470. He would later be known by his courtesy name, Zhengming. When he was two years old, his father, Wen Lin, passed the imperial examination with the highest possible rank, jinshi. Wen Lin was assigned a government position as a magistrate in Yongjia County in Zhejiang province, and left for his job, leaving his two sons in the care of his wife, Qi Shenning. In 1476, Qi died of an illness at the age of 32. Wen Lin commissioned the noted scholar Li Dongyang to write an inscription for her tomb.[3]

Wen Zhengming’s family was originally from Hengyang, Hunan province, where his family had established itself shortly after the 10th century. Not until the time of his great-grandfather, Wen Hui, a military officer, did the family move to the Suzhou area.[citation needed] Zhengming was a distant relative of the Song dynasty official Wen Tianxiang, through an ancestor who lived in Hengshan County in Hunan. From this he derived his hao (art name), Hengshan, which he used to sign many of his works.[4] His father Wen Lin and his grandfather Wen Hong (Gongda) were both interested in painting. Wen Lin was also a patron of Tang Yin, Wen Zhengming's contemporary and fellow member of the "Four Masters".[5]

Around 1509-1513, Wang Xianchen, a friend of the Wen family, began construction on the Humble Administrator's Garden,[6] generally considered one of China's greatest classical gardens. The garden is the subject of some of Wen Zhengming's poems and paintings,[7] including an album of thirty-one views painted in 1535 and a second of eight views in 1551.

Zhengming's eldest son, Wen Peng, was a noted seal-engraver.[8] His second son. Wen Jia, was also an artist, as was his nephew Wen Boren.[9][10] His great grandson, Wen Zhenheng, a noted garden designer, rebuilt the Garden of Cultivation in Suzhou.


Wen often chose painting subjects of great simplicity, like a single tree or rock. His work often brings about a feeling of strength through isolation, which often reflected his discontent with official life. Many of his works also celebrate the contexts of elite social life for which they were created.


  1. ^ Chang & Owen 2010, p. 61.
  2. ^ Chang & Owen 2010, p. 39.
  3. ^ Clunas 2004, pp. 19-20.
  4. ^ Clunas 2004, p. 33.
  5. ^ Watson 2000, p. 198.
  6. ^ Clunas 2013, pp. 23-24.
  7. ^ Cai 2011, p. 124.
  8. ^ Sun 20014, p. 45.
  9. ^ Clunas 2013, p. 115.
  10. ^ Watson 2000, p. 200.

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