Peach Blossoms by Li Bingshou, hanging scroll; ink and color on silk; Qing Dynasty
Li Bingshou, with a style name Yunfu and sobriquet Huanbi Zhuren, once worked as Director of the Water Conservancy Bureau of the Imperial Ministry of Works. Yet he disliked to be held up by official duties. Thus he resigned and lived in seclusion in Guilin. He purchased Huanbi Garden, ran painting "saloons", and invited famous masters to lecture. Huanbi Garden also became one of the artistic cradles of Lingnan Painting School. This scroll of Peach Blossoms was made in simulation of the artistic conception of Chen Chun and Xu Wei, which was designed with spiritual and vacant composition. "Wet brushes" were frequently applied and the colors were mostly light and elegant. The petals of the peach flowers are tender and the pistil is clearly distinct; the leaves are gracefully waving, which gather together orderly. Try to imagine, what a leisure and graceful experience by sitting alone in Huanbi Garden in the deep Autumn September, wielding the ink brush and thinking the gorgeous peach blossoms back in spring surrounded by the aroma of tea!
Speaking of artists, most of them are poor in our traditional impression. What about Li Bingshou's living conditions then? Well, we have to talk about his family. In 1729, the seventh year of Yongzheng reign of the Qing Dynasty, a salt dealer named Li Yimin came to Guilin, Guangxi from Linchuan, Jiangxi and gradually developed from a poor dealer into the founder of a prominent family possessing a garden as large as half of the city and the wealth of the nobility. Most salt merchants were despised as overnight millionaires by the society and officialdom in the Qing Dynasty. However, Li Yimin was quite an insightful merchant. After acquiring wealth, he spared no efforts in enhancing his entire family's social status and cultural cultivation and realized the transmission from merchant prince toward nobility. Four generations of the family were all adept at calligraphy and painting. His family was granted with the high reputation of "the Li's of Linchuan is a family of grace and elegance". The most famous one among his descendants shall be the artist of this painting--- Li Bingshou, Li Yimin's sixth son.