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The Cover
July 14, 2010

Album of Twelve Flowers (No. 11)

JAMA. 2010;304(2):132. doi:10.1001/jama.2010.872

The Chinese arts flourished during the Ch’ing dynasty (1644-1911). Yün Shou-p’ing (1633-1690), a native of Wu-chin, Kiangsu Province, is considered one of the six most important painters of the Ch’ing dynasty. He had the rare distinction of excelling in three classical fields (painting, poetry, and calligraphy) but is best remembered for his paintings.

Yün's father was a Ming dynasty (1368-1644) loyalist. His family had achieved high status in the Ming administration, and his father participated in the Ming dynasty's struggle to maintain control before the Manchurians established the Ch’ing dynasty. After the struggle, Yün's father was imprisoned. Yün, 15 years old, was lost and presumed dead. He was taken into the service of Fukien's Manchu governor, whose wife treated him as an adopted son. Yün and his father reunited in a chance encounter at the Ling-yin Monastery in Hangchou. However, his father could not claim him from the governor until an abbot interceded. Once again living with his father, Yün exemplified filial piety by vowing to devote himself to his father's ideals. In China, the Confucian ideal of filial piety, a respect for the parents and ancestors, is one of the virtues held above all others. Thus, Yün maintained a deep sense of loyalty to the Mings, never taking the Ch’ing civil service examination (from 605 to 1905 the examination determined who among the general population would be permitted to enter the administration). Instead, he supported his father and family with the sale of his paintings. His story became legend, leading Wang Pien to write an opera about his life.