Rochers de lettrés — Itinéraires de l’art en Chine


Drawing, painting

Rochers de lettrés
Itinéraires de l’art en Chine

Past: March 28 → June 25, 2012

Scholars’ rocks, Itineraries of chinese art

The Musée Guimet, the museum of Asian arts, is holding an international exhibition around the theme of chinese scholars’ rocks and their place in the world of these “enlightened men” who were at once civil servants, artists, poets and calligraphers. Around a hundred objects will be exhibited, including special loans from china and the United States, and will combine stone writing accessories and paintings, both classical and contemporary, inspired by these rocks.

The chinese scholarly official class: challenging jobs and a rich talent pool.

Versed in the knowledge of classical texts, some scholars — laureates of official exams or not — had their secret garden, a remote and peaceful place, away from worldly agitation, to occupy their few moments of leisure. Painters, poets, calligraphers, far from the constraints of their professions, isolated themselves in a delightful carelessness fueled by poetry, the contemplation of nature and of the rocks they had lovingly gathered and placed in their studios furnished with a thoughtful simplicity.

Living, since the 8th Century, in a semi or, for the strongest-willed, total reclusiveness, the fortitude of those scholars has always sparkled ambiguous feeling among their contemporaries, a mix of admiration and envy, in a Confucian society where the worth of a man was measured by his usefulness.

Scholars’ stones, microcosms and miniature mountains

These rocks were first placed into pools to symbolize the isles of the Immortals, in the hope that, by the sympathetic magic of similarities, the latter would come to settle on them. Later, they were arranged in gardens, still symbolizing mountains in the midst of miniature depictions of the Universe. Their secret ties to the transformations of the Earth, the weight of the “breath of Life” that the Chinese cosmogony imbued them with, made them, in the eyes of their enlightened owners, nexuses of solidified energy. Under the Tang dynasty (581-618), scholars developed the use of decorating their “studios” with them, to be reminded of the colors or the texture of an actual mountain, landscape or rocky path, as an open door to daydreams.

Contemporary Chinese scholars

The attraction exerted on these men, affectionately called “petromaniacs” or “stone lovers” by the Chinese, was also reflected through their desire to depict their treasures. What began as a simple extension of their passion and aesthetic quest, soon evolved into a sort of discreet and passionate hymn to the wonders of nature, perfectly mirrored in the plastic and pictorial creations of contemporary Chinese scholar Zeng Xiaojun. Most rocks in the exhibition, as well as the scholarly objects and furniture, come from his personal collections. Paintings of rocks and landscapes inspired by scholars’ rocks punctuate this set, with classical works displayed alongside those of Liu Dan, another contemporary scholar and artist. Plastic works or paintings, all testify to the permanence of “the spirit of the scholar” in today’s China.

Sponsored by Terre Entière, cultural tour operator, and HSBC Bank Media partnerships : Art Absolument, Art Aujourd’hui, Arte, A Nous Paris, China Plus, Figaroscope.

Musée Guimet Museum
Map Map
16 Trocadéro Zoom in 16 Trocadéro Zoom out

6, place d’Iéna

75016 Paris

T. 01 56 52 53 00


Opening hours

Every day except Tuesday, 10 AM – 6 PM

Admission fee

Full rate €7,50€ — 8 — Concessions €5,50€ — 6

Free admission to exhibitions for young people under 18 years

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