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Zhang Daqian

Zhang Daqian
Native name 張大千
Born Zhāng Zhèngquán (張正權)
(1899-05-10)May 10, 1899
Neijiang, Sichuan, China
Died April 2, 1983(1983-04-02) (aged 83)
Taipei, Taiwan
Nationality Chinese
Known for Painting
Movement guohua, impressionism, expressionism
Zhang Daqian
Traditional Chinese 張大千
Simplified Chinese 张大千
Chang Dai-chien's forgery of Guan Tong's "Drinking and singing at the foot of a precipitous mountain" created between 1910 and 1957. Formerly attributed to Guan Tong, Chinese, 10th century. Ink and colours on silk. 218.2 x 90.2 cm

Zhang Daqian or Chang Dai-chien (forgers of the twentieth century.


  • Background 1
  • Artistic career 2
  • Forgeries 3
  • See also 4
  • Bibliography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Chang was born in 1899 in Sichuan Province to a financially struggling but artistic family. His first commission came at age 12, when a traveling fortune-teller requested he paint her a new set of divining cards. At age 17 he was captured by bandits while returning home from boarding school in Chongqing. When the bandit chief ordered him to write a letter home demanding a ransom, he was so impressed by the boy's brushmanship that he made the boy his personal secretary. During the more than three months that he was held captive, he read books of poetry which the bandits had looted from raided homes.[1]

As a young adult Chang moved to Kyoto to learn textile dyeing techniques. He later returned to Shanghai and established a successful career selling his paintings.

The governor of Qinghai, Ma Bufang, sent Chang to Sku'bum to seek helpers for analyzing and copying Dunhuang's Buddhist art.[2]

Due to the political climate of China in 1949, he left the country and resided in Mendoza, Argentina, São Paulo and Mogi das Cruzes, Brazil, and then to Carmel, California, before settling in Taipei, Taiwan in 1978.[3][4] During his years of wandering he had several wives simultaneously, curried favor with influential people, and maintained a large entourage of relatives and supporters. He also kept a pet gibbon. He affected the long robe and long beard of a scholar.[1]

A meeting between Chang and Picasso in Nice, France in 1956 was viewed as a summit between the preeminent masters of Eastern and Western art. The two men exchanged paintings at this meeting.[3]

Artistic career

Zhang's early professional painting was primarily in Shanghai. In the late 1920s he moved to Beijing where he collaborated with Pu Xinyu.[5] In the 1930s he worked out of a studio on the grounds of the Master of the Nets Garden in Suzhou.[6] In 1940 he led a group of artists in copying the Buddhist wall paintings in the Mogao and Yulin caves. In the late 1950s, his deteriorating eyesight led him to develop his splashed color, or pocai, style.[5]


Zhang's forgeries are difficult to detect for many reasons. First, his ability to mimic the great Chinese masters:

So prodigious was his virtuosity within the medium of Chinese ink and colour that it seemed he could paint anything. His output spanned a huge range, from archaising works based on the early masters of Chinese painting to the innovations of his late works which connect with the language of Western abstract art.[7]

Second, he paid scrupulous attention to the materials he used. "He studied paper, ink, brushes, pigments, seals, seal paste, and scroll mountings in exacting detail. When he wrote an inscription on a painting, he sometimes included a postscript describing the type of paper, the age and the origin of the ink, or the provenance of the pigments he had used."

Third, he often forged paintings based on descriptions in catalogues of lost paintings; his forgeries came with ready-made provenance.[8]

Zhang's forgeries have been purchased as original paintings by several major art museums in the United States, including the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston:

Of particular interest is a master forgery acquired by the Museum in 1957 as an authentic work of the tenth century. The painting, which was allegedly a landscape by the Five Dynasties period master [9]

  • Zhang Daqian and his Painting Gallery at China Online Museum
  • Chang Dai-chien Residence Memorial Hall at National Palace Museum
  • Chang Dai-chien in California at San Francisco State University
  • Chang Dai-chien biography (
  • Chang Dai-chien at the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macao
  • Video tour of the Chang Dai-chien Residence Memorial Hall on YouTube
  • Annotated list of Chang Ta-ch'ien's Forgeries by James Cahill
  • Straddling East and West: Lin Yutang, a modern literatus: the Lin Yutang family collection of Chinese painting and calligraphy, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art Libraries (available online as PDF), which contains material on Chang Dai-chien (see table of contents)

External links

  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Toni Huber (2002). Amdo Tibetans in transition: society and culture in the post-Mao era: PIATS 2000: Tibetan studies: proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Leiden 2000. BRILL. p. 205.  
  3. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica
  4. ^ Sullivan, Michael (2006). Modern Chinese artists: a biographical dictionary. Berkeley, California: University of California Press. p. 215.  
  5. ^ a b "Zhang, Daqian". Credo Reference - Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 16 July 2012. 
  6. ^  
  7. ^ Jiazi, Chen; Kwok, Ken (2001), Chang Dai-Chien: The Enigmatic Genius, Singapore: Asian Civilisations Museum, p. 9,  
  8. ^ Fu, Shen CY (1991). "3. Painting theory". Challenging the Past: The Paintings of Chang Dai-Chien. Seattle, Washington: Arthur M Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; University of Washington Press. pp. 37–38.  
  9. ^ a b "Zhang Daqian — Master Painter/Master Forger". Art Knowledge News. Art Appreciation Foundation. 2006. Retrieved 24 March 2010. 
  10. ^ a b Pomfret, John (17 January 1999). "The Master Forger". The Washington Post Magazine: W14. 


  • Shen, Fu. Challenging the past: the paintings of Chang Dai-chien. Washington, D.C.: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; Seattle: University of Washington Press, c. 1991. (OCLC 23765860)
  • Chen, Jiazi. Chang Dai-Chien: the enigmatic genius. Singapore : Asian Civilisations Museum, ©2001. (OCLC 48501375)
  • Yang, Liu. Lion among painters: Chinese master Chang Dai Chien. Sydney, Australia: Art Gallery of New South Wales, ©1998. (OCLC 39837498)


See also

[10] Joseph Chang, Curator of Chinese Art at the [9] genre with the query, "Could this be by Chang Dai-chien?"bird and flower Museum curators are cautioned to examine Chinese paintings of questionable origins, especially those from the


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