The Holistic brushstroke - chinese text


There were no painting methods in remote antiquity, for the Uncarved Block had not yet disintegrated.[1]


When it did, methods were established. But what is the basis of any method? They are all based on the Holistic Brushstroke.[2]


The Holistic Brushstroke is fundamental to depicting everything in existence and is the root of all images. It is perceptible spiritually yet works mysteriously in the human mind so that my contemporaries remain unaware of it. Therefore, I, myself, established a "method" of the Holistic Brushstroke. This "method" is created out of "nomethod" to string together all other methods.[3]


Painting is guided by the mind. Whether depicting the tapestry of landscape and people or the nature of birds, animals, and grasses and trees, or the dimensions of ponds, pavilions, towers, and terraces; if one fails to discern their natural order or is unable to represent the details of their appearance, it is because the broad rule of the Holistic Brushstroke has not been grasped. All journeys begin by traversing the shortest of distances. A single brushstroke can define even that which lies beyond the borders of the universe. An infinity of brushstrokes all begin with it and are completed by it. It only depends on the artist to take control, for if he can employ holistic brushstrokes to create a universe in miniature,[4] then his brushwork will clearly reveal his intention.


If the wrist does not move freely, then the entire painting will seem wrong, and when a painting seems wrong it is because the movements of the wrist are uninspired. Activate it in circular motions, ease it by twisting and turning, and bring it to rest with a feeling of spaciousness. Thrust as if attacking; return as if tearing something off.

The Enlightening Remarks on Painting


The movements of the wrist should be
round, angular,
direct, meandering,
ranging upward and downward,
shifting with equal facility to the left or right.
It should soar and dip, acting suddenly.
It should cut incisively,
extend horizontally or obliquely.
Flowing deep down like water
or shooting upward like flames,
the wrist should move naturally,
without the slightest bit of coercion.


When every movement is animated, any method can be mastered. The natural order of things will be captured and their outer appearances fully depicted. With instinctive motion, one can depict

landscapes, people,
birds, animals,
grasses and trees,
ponds, pavilions,
towers, and terraces.
Whether capturing forms and their dynamic forces,
painting from life or from imagination,
expressing emotion or evoking
a particular scene;
whether clearly revealing or subtly suggesting things,
the painting is completed without the artist realizing it
yet accords completely with his mind's intention.


The Uncarved Block disintegrated so the method of the Holistic Brushstroke was established, thereby enabling all things to be depicted. Thus, I maintain, "My Tao employs Oneness to string everything together."[5]