Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas blog


Beginning another blog in the days before Christmas. I will be spending it quietly here in Vancouver, without doing any holiday travel. We are having a cold spell, and snow is thick outside. I am warm and secure, and in pretty good health. Best holiday wishes to all my friends and colleagues.

Best news: my research assistant Barry Magrill has found a way to add a really usable, easily readable copy of my collected non-scholarly works, CYCTIE (the Ching Yuan Chai Treasury of Imperishable Ephemera) to my website. Click on CYCTIE, then on the single item (same) that appears below. Downloaded will be a pdf of the entire 84-page text, no underlining except where it is intentional, indentations and spacings as in my original typescript, all clear and readable. For those new to it, it contains my comic-verse writings over the years, including songs written for Faculty Club Christmas parties and other occasions at U.C. Berkley; my part of the libretto (from p. 18) for a musical titled "Dan Destry's Dilemma, or Publish or Perish, or Both," using the music and forms of Gilbert-and-Sullivan songs; the same for a later production titled "Dan Destry's Return, or the Academic Beggar's Opera," using music and song-patterns from the Gay-Pepusch work of that title (from p. 24); verses and would-be serious poems written in my earlier years, and during my Army years in Korea (try "Three Seoul Streetscapes," from the bottom of p. 60); and scripts for entertainments, notably (from p. 67) a Shakespeare/Marlowe fragment titled "Hamlet in Wittenberg." (Has no one else realized that Hamlet and Faust may have been at that university at the same time?) Recommended, although dated (Berkeley student riots etc.) See also, for a terrible pun which I still love, four lines from the end of p. 82. (For young people who will miss the point: there was a popular song, sung notably by Bob Hope in a movie, called "Thanks for the Memories.")

In the previous blog I announced an offer of an audiodisk containing an old recording, from a radio broadcast, of a comic chamber opera titled "A Day At Creed's" (my preferred title; Gordon's, used on the broadcast, was "Creedo in Unum Bookstore") that my composer friend Gordon Cyr and I (as librettist) created in the late 1940s and performed with two friends. It became a part of the Berkeley tradition, and copies of the recording made from a radio broadcast were kept and occasionally played by old Berkeley people. Now you can own a copy—see my previous blog for instructions on getting it. As for the next JCahillDisk: Barry Magrill is presently preparing a long text, and an attached series of several hundred digital images, called "Chang Fakes," listing and describing the paintings I suspect of being (or know to be) forgeries by the great forger Chang Ta-ch'ien.. Whether this will be issued as a disk or somehow made accessible on the website is still to be determined.

One of my Reminiscences, no. 36, "Brundage Opening Symposium, Last Day," tells of how I used my introductory remarks to this last-day session in the 1968 (?) symposium, calling it a tribute to the recently-deceased Osvald Sirén, to deliver a response to Avery Brundage for the remarks he had made at the opening lunch, insulting Chinese painting specialists by saying the reason he didn't buy more Chinese paintings was that the experts couldn't agree on datings, or even tell Japanese paintings from Chinese. Mentioned there also was the brief, unexpected talk that Sirén's son delivered, a strangely moving "tribute" to his father's scholarly achievements, which, he said, had necessitated his neglecting his family—"It wasn't easy being the son of Osvald Sirén." I mention there that I once had a tape recording of this session, but had lost it. My daughter Sarah found it, along with other old, nostalgia-inducing tapes, and has sent it to me on a disk. I could in principle make that, too, available to anyone seriously interested in listening to it, as part of the history of our field, recording a dramatic moment in it.

Soon to be posted on my website are three more Reminiscences and two CLPs. CLP 187 is the "keynote" paper I delivered in October at an international symposium in Seoul, Korea. CLP 188 is a paper I wrote on “Pictorial Integrity: The Readable Image as Indicator of Authenticity in Chinese Painting,” outlining and arguing for a method of distinguishing original paintings from copies by seeing which one exhibits "pictorial integrity," i.e. makes good sense everywhere as a picture—the copyist frequently misunderstands pictorial elements and garbles them. A notable example is the "two-legged tripod" detail in the copy of Tu Chin's "Enjoying Antiques" in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, which I (wrongly) reproduced as the original in Parting At the Shore, Fig. 73. (For detailed arguments about this matter, see "The Tu Chin Correspondence, 1994-95." In: Kaikodo Journal V, Autumn 1997, pp. 8-62.)

The three Reminiscences are:

- 58. Altering Chinese Paintings; Walter Hochstadter. Describing this late dealer's bad habit of repainting or deleting details in paintings he owned.

- 59. Two Famous Collector-Donors Whom I Didn't Like. Some of you will guess who they were; either way, go and see.

- 60. Novelty and Romancement, or, Less Bread, More Taxes! This is a short one, I hope amusing, written quickly this morning
(12//19/08)—I thought of it while lying awake in bed. The title is taken from two unfamiliar (to most people) writings of Lewis Carroll.

Finally: the arrival of a very good exhibition catalog from my bookseller, titled "Tracing the Che School in Chinese Painting" and based on what appears to have been a fine and important exhibition at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, reminds me of another matter on which there has been a great change since my younger days. Among the many valuable contributions of this catalog are re-attributions of paintings formerly ascribed to Sung-period artists (note that I use Wade-Giles, writing about a subject in Taiwan), now given more convincing and up-to-date re-attributions, on the basis of their styles, to Ming masters of the Che School. This is a big advance over the situation that obtained back in 1960, I think it was, when we were preparing the great 1961-62 exhibition Chinese Art Treasures. We had made such re-attributions of some of the paintings in our catalog entries (written by Aschwin Lippe and myself). Suddenly I, as a young curator at the Freer Gallery, was summoned to the Chinese Embassy in D.C. and informed that conservative members of the committee in Taipei that administered the Palace Museum were objecting to these re-attributions, and demanding that we return to the traditional attributions in our catalog entries; otherwise, they threatened, the exhibition would not be allowed to proceed. To see how this problem was resolved, through the skillful management of the then-Chinese ambassador to the U.S. George Yeh, see the early pages of my CLP 117 (2005). “The Place of the National Palace Museum in My Scholarly Career.”

Later note: a review in this morning's New York Times (12/24/08, The Arts section p. C1) of a book of poems by the Berkeley poet Jack Spicer mentions "the so-called Berkeley Renaissance of the late 1940s." Was our 1949 opera (see paragraph 3 above) part of that? In a way it was, since its setting and subject, Creed's Bookstore, was a hangout for Berkeley literary people, and the literary-gay group among them, mentioned briefly in my Responses and Reminiscences no. 57, included Spicer. I didn't know him, at least not well, but I did know well the more famous Berkeley poet Robert Duncan (also pictured in the photo accompanying the review), especially when Al Lewis, mentioned in the Reminiscence and a character in our opera, was living with us in our house on Hillegass Ave. Duncan was a frequent visitor to our musical-literary evenings at which we played intricate games, sometimes ending the evening late by consulting my copy of Ueda's Japanese-English Dictionary, which provided English sentences to exemplify usages of words, as an oracle, asking it questions and opening it at random and reading where a finger pointed. The answers were often scarily to the point. When it was not responding satisfactorily we would give it a libation, a small dollop of sake. Duncan had a certain attachment to me, which I never rewarded (I was never attracted to gay sex, and never participated in it.) I note also, in an article in this week's New Yorker, that Susan Sontag was briefly an undergraduate at U. C. Berkeley in 1949. Did I sell her a book at Creed's? Quite possibly.

Merry Christmas to all, James Cahill

Sunday, December 7, 2008

'Dealers who don't get it' and 'A Day at Creeds' posted

11/3/08 (begun on the night before the fateful election):

I haven't written and posted one of these for nearly seven months, and have probably lost whatever readership I had, by not rewarding your checking the site. But for those who still do, there are a few new items.

- Two new additions to the "Responses and Reminiscences." No. 56 is "Dealers Who Don't Get Credit," which, in addition to discussing that phenomenon generally, details two cases: Yabumoto Sôgorô, who put together a great collection of Chinese Buddhist bronzes for a collector originally from Taiwan, who now gets the credit for his "good eye," with Yabumoto going unmentioned; and Joseph Seo, who was responsible for the excellent selection of Chinese paintings and calligraphy, many of them coming from the very dangerous artist-dealer Chang Ta-ch'ien, that went to the new collector John Crawford, and who similarly went unmentioned when a great symposium celebrated Crawford's success as a collector. The other Reminiscence, No. 57, is titled "A Night At the Opera in Berkeley: 'A Day At Creed's'", and relates (more fully—it was touched on before, in R&R no. 2, on the role of music in my life) how the composer Gordon Cyr and myself as librettist produced a comic chamber-opera that enjoyed some success in Berkeley in the late 1940s, and is still remembered by a few. This essay ends with an offer of a CD disk containing a recording of the opera, made when it was performed on Radio Station KPFA. The offer is the first of what will, I hope, be a series of offers of JCahillDisks, to be sent to anyone who sends me (4085 West 40th Ave., Vancouver, B.C., Canada V6N 3B9) a note requesting it, along with your mailing address and a $10 bill-- or two fives, whatever, U.S. currency only—or, from foreign sources, a postal money order for that amount in US dollars. This will pay for the disk, the postage, and the time of Barry Magrill, my research assistant, who will make and send them. (No other kind of payment will be accepted: no personal checks, no foreign currency, no i.o.u.'s, no trades etc.)

- Other JCahillDisks to be issued later, if plans go well, will include: one (or more) with images of paintings I believe to be forgeries by Chang Ta-ch'ien, to accompany a text titled "Chang Ta-ch'ien's Forgeries of Old Paintings," to be posted on my website; a disk with images to accompany one or more of my old USC lectures "Women in Chinese Painting" (WCP 1-6), also available on the website; and perhaps, eventually, a disk with black-and-white images of the illustrations of the two-and-a-half chapters of my never-to-be-published fourth volume in my series, on the website as Early Qing. I had collected most of the photos for these, and can in principle make them available on disks in this way.

- Good news: my last major book, titled Pictures for Use and Pleasure: Vernacular Painting in High Qing China,, will be published by the University of California Press in Berkeley around the end of 2009. Watch for it. It will be followed, I hope, by the smaller book tentatively titled Chinese Erotic Paintings and Prints, expanded from what was once to be a long sixth chapter in the main book. I hope that the U.C. Press will also take this on.

- Other writings of mine to watch for, if the subjects interest you: a long paper titled "A Group of Anonymous Northern Figure Paintings from the Qianlong Period," to be included in the soon-to-be-published Festschrift volume for Wen Fong, titled Bridges to Heaven; and an article on the newly-rediscovered late Ming Chinese erotic books from the Shibui Collection, feared lost (see my article in Orientatiions for November 2003), to be published in a special issue of Orientations, in mid-2009, devoted to this rediscovery and the acquisition of the Chinese materials in it by Christer von der Burg's Muban Foundation in London, with other articles by Christer himself, Soren Edgren, and others celebrating this important new acquisition. I will write briefly, also, on why two of the newly-available items are important to the study of the beginnings of Japanese Ukiyo-e.

- Other news: The Sanlian Book Co. in China is publishing what should be good Chinese editions—good paper, good illustrations—of four of my books in the near future, the same four already published in Chinese editions by Rock Pub. Co. in Taipei: the three Yuan-Ming books (Hills, Parting, Distant Mts.) and Compelling Image. They plan also to publish Painter's Practice, but some problems are evidently holding up the completion of the translation. Painter's Practice is also to appear soon in a Korean translation—I learned this when I spent a few days in Seoul recently—my first visit there (except for a brief stopover by boat in the early 80s?) since I was stationed in Seoul as a U.S. Army language officer (Japanese—I spoke no Korean) some sixty years ago, 1946-48. A brief account of that time and what I did then appears already as Reminiscence No. 48, "Music in Korea"; I will write it up at greater length for publication in some Korean magazine.

All for now; I will not wait so long before writing another one. (P.S.: The election went as it should have, we can feel hopeful again, and take some pride, instead of the shame of the past eight years, in being U. S. citizens.)

James Cahill

Friday, April 11, 2008



I am putting on my website four additions to the "Responses and Reminiscences" section (found under "Writings of J.C.") These are:

52. Tessai, the Temple, and Three Bishops
53. How the Train Scroll Came Into Being
54. Ed Schafer and Three Chopin Barcarolles
55. Sôgenga: A Modest Exhibition, An Opportunity

All four are, I think, entertaining, in some part amusing, in part even instructive; I recommend them to browsers. The one on Ed Schafer will call up fond memories in those who knew him, and give some sense of why he was so respected and loved to those who didn't. The one on the Train Scroll is insufficient because it doesn't include pictures of the work, but a younger colleague intends to write a learned article about it and publish good reproductions of it, so we will have to wait for that.

These "Reminiscences" are taking on the character of a topically-arranged autobiography, and are the only writing of the kind that I mean to do. I believe they are more interesting and useful (to the history of our field, Chinese/Japanese painting studies) than the chronological kind of autobiography would be. If any readers have suggestions of topics I haven't yet written about and should, please send them to me, using the "response" system of these blogs, or else my email address:

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


This blog is mainly to announce the addition of some more CLPs, old lectures and papers, to my website. Responses that come in through the "contact" box and otherwise indicate that these are being read and used by quite a few people, and it seems worthwhile to make more of them accessible. These will be put on as pdf files, downloadable and readable that way—I don't have them in digitized form, only old typescripts or printed pages. The ones that will be added in the near future are:

- CLP 5, “Some Prolix and Commonsensical Remarks on Chinese Art Theory/” This was a discussant paper for a conference on "Theories of the Arts in China," and was printed as an appendix to "The Barnhart-Cahill-Rogers Correspondence, 1981." I put it on the website (along with two other appendices, CLP 183 and 184, see below) for those who haven't access to that publication.

- CLP 15, "Five Notable Figures in the Early Period of Chinese Painting Studies." Paper for College Art Assn. session, 1991, with reminiscences and appreciations of: Archibald Wenley, Osvald Sirén, Laurence Sickman, Shûjirô Shimada, and Max Loehr. Later pages, added when I expanded this into a lecture, deal with other notables.

- CLP 87, "Types of Text-Object Relationships in Chinese Art." Written as a keynote address for an international congress held in Kyoto in 1983, among other things warning against facile Chinese formulations equating painting and poetry etc.

- CLP 183. Introductory remarks to seminar, January 1982. Brief methodological statement (still another), with cautions.

- CLP 184, "The Five Faults in Chinese Painting Studies." Written with facetious intent, parodying lists of this kind in old Chinese texts, but also serious in their message.

CLP 9 and 26, long promised but held up by technical problems, will be appearing soon. (This begins to sound like "Previews of Coming Attractions.")

CYCTIE Part 1, my non-scholarly writings—comic verses, faculty highjinks etc.—was missing for a long time; now it is there in two versions. The downloadable pdfs are in four parts (CYCTIE 1, Part 1 to Part 4); the whole text is also there as a website text, click on CYCTIE Part One (spelled out). But don't—it's not only devoid of indents and other formatting, but also entirely underlined, very unpleasant. We'll try to fix this.

Also: Two more "Reminiscences" will soon be added to that series; keep watching. One is "How the Train Scroll Came Into Being," an account of how the artist William Lewis and I, with help from others, created a seriously-comic handscroll painting with lots of attached inscriptions as a present for Max Loehr in 1952; the other is "Ed Schafer and Three Chopin Barcarolles." I can promise that both are entertaining stories, bringing back amusing and moving episodes from the past, and are worth your attention.

I end this one with a happy note: My long-delayed book, now titled Pictures for Use and Pleasure: Vernacular Painting in High Qing China, written originally (2002-5) for Jim Peck's "Culture and Civilization of China" series, dropped from that series and eventually rejected by Yale University Press, much rewritten, has now been accepted for publication by the University of California Press in Berkeley. Publication is projected for October, 2009. If all goes well, it be followed by a smaller book, probably my last, tentatively titled Chinese Erotic Painting, which at one point was a long Chapter 6 to PUP but was removed and expanded for separate publication. (For anticipations of this, see CLP 55 and 158.)