;With Huang Gongwang (1269- c. 1354), Wu Zhen (1280-1354), Ni Zan (1301-1374) and Wang Meng (1308-1385), the four most reputed painters in the Jiangnan area during the late Yuan Dynasty as the object of research, the thesis took a cross-disciplinary perspective and examined the artistic life, connoted feelings and devotions reflected in their poetry from the aspects of history, society, philosophy, religion, art, aesthetics, psychology, etc. and through motifs of social intercourse, reclusion, writing within painting, etc.
Among the four masters, Huang Gongwang, Ni Zan and Wang Meng discussed poetry and painting and exchanged through literati gatherings. Consequently, the style of their poetry and their ideas of painting and calligraphy gradually came to form a certain aesthetic trend which influenced the development of poetry and painting with literati gathering pictures and texts being sublimated into a comfortable and leisure cultural imagery. In addition, as a mutually beneficial activity, literati gathering was an occasion for the host and participating literati to expand connection and improve reputation. By the late Yuan Dynasty, it even became a refugee.
All the four masters bore the ambition of helping people. Yet because of the perilous political situation, they opted for reclusion and turned to Buddhism for seeking Dao. Their poetry conveyed social injustice, the reluctance of taking refuge, the bitterness and struggle of wander, the aspiration for Pure Land and the longing for a harmonious integration of things and self. It contained the state of living in retreat of the three integrated religions, stresses the quality of real life and the elevation of spirit and bearing, representing an actual phenomenon of Yuan Dynasty literati in responding to the mutation of the epoch. In terms of writing poems in paintings, in the four masters’ poetry and painting, diverse charms of flower, wood, bamboo and stone, as well as the tradition of implying one’s quality in things are amply elaborated. These are transformed into testimonies responding to the trial of the times. Besides, cozy symbols like divine and blessed land, the Land of Peach Blossoms, Wangchuan, fishermen’s homes, etc. are integrated as ideal mental-scape, as a means of relief. In terms of the relation of poetry and painting, poems in paintings with flower, wood, bamboo and stone are characterized by recreating, surpassing the tableau and expanding the pictorial connotation while the tableau only carries symbolic meanings of honoring moral integrity. Because of the lapse between writing poetry and making painting, the poetic and the pictorial moods in Shan shui poems within paintings sometimes do not entirely correspond to one other, reflecting turns in the poet’s emotion and thoughts. Also, the method of inscribing poems often corresponds to layers of the painting, which may relate to compositional conventions of “two banks of one river”. Both poetry and painting have the function of implying meaning through things and expressing one’s temperament.