Chinese Painting and Cultivation

Zhang Cuiying

PureInsight | March 18, 2002

Chinese painting is a type of art that is able to improve the painter’s mind nature and personality.
Only those who have high moral standards and pure mindsets can create high-level Chinese paintings that have the ability to touch people’s hearts. After I began to practice Falun Gong, my paintings quickly elevated to a high level, capturing the spirit of the divine. That is because I know that “Truthfulness Benevolence Forbearance” is the most fundamental Buddha Fa and the highest characteristics of the universe. Using “Truthfulness Benevolence Forbearance” as the guiding principle in my paintings, I have been able to inject benevolence and purity into my work. In order to urgently appeal to the governments of countries all over the world, the international media, and the kind-hearted people from all the over world and ask them to help and support the Falun Gong practitioners who are being persecuted in China, I have held traveling exhibitions in more than twenty countries and more than sixty cities. I hope my paintings have not only been able to let people all over the world recognize the beauty of Chinese paintings, but also demonstrated to them the immense compassion of Falun Gong practitioners.
A big difference between Chinese painting and western painting is that Chinese painting is actually a type of art that is able to improve the painter’s mind nature and personality. It is a classical art form that emphasizes the skill of using brush and ink and carries deep inner meanings. A Chinese painting uses drawings to illustrate the surface meaning and adopts other means such as an accompanying poem to convey its inner meaning. It is a unique art form that has the ability to blend the physical world and the metaphysical world into one. In a Chinese painting, what appears to be physical may not be purely physical, and what appears to be metaphysical may not be purely metaphysical.

Many principles of Chinese painting are similar to those of qigong. The required brush movements are gentle, slow and round. Furthermore, much emphasis is placed on one's conduct, on being a good person. It believes that only a good person is capable of creating a good Chinese painting, and the painting is a reflection of the painter. Every stroke of the brush conveys the character of the painter, and this is why it is essential that the painter be of good moral character. In that sense, Chinese painting is also a form of cultivation. Several of my teachers lived to be about a hundred years old. They lived longer than average. Why is it that, throughout the ages, great Chinese calligraphers and painters enjoy longevity? It is because consciously or not, they have united their craft or their art with cultivation. They entered into a state of qigong while engaged in their art.

Chinese artists use very simple tools: Xuan paper, ink, dye, brushes, and signature seals (Xuan paper is high- quality paper that was traditionally made in Xuan City, Anhui province. It is especially good for traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy). As an artist, one needs to put cultivation of mind/heart nature, or xinxing, first. One must value virtue and have no competitive mentality toward others. Patience, tranquility and uprightness are qualities that Chinese painters treasure and strive toward. Inner beauty—having a beautiful heart—is of the essence. Beauty in the surface appearance of artwork is secondary to that, as painting techniques can gradually be acquired through learning and practicing.

The purer the painter’s moral character is, the more touching the painting will be. If you only learn your art from the angle of artistry, you are attending to trifles and neglecting essentials. The most you will attain is to be an artisan, and you will never become a genuine artist. Dead ends for an artist are vulgarity, subservience, and lack of imagination. When I was young, my teacher, Shen Zicheng, spent a lot of time telling me the deep and profound meaning of art. As I was very young then, I did not fully understand the profoundness of his teachings. I only knew to follow what he said because he taught me these things repeatedly. After I learned Falun Dafa, I really understood the significance of his words. Master Li said, “I often say that if all a person wants is the well-being of others and if this is without the slightest personal motivation or personal understanding, what he says will move the listener to tears.” (From “Clearheadedness” in Essentials for Further Advancement)
Master Li revealed a secret - with high morality, and clean and honest thoughts, one’s speech will have the power to move others:

“But when your mind is truly able to reach tranquillity, when your attachments become fewer and fewer, or when the distracting thoughts become fewer and fewer, you will find that your words have power... words with power can change people... Your mind will become increasingly pure as you reach higher levels. What your thinking brings forth and what you say will be extremely pure. The purer and simpler they are, the more they conform to the principles of that level of the universe. The words you speak can then instantly pierce people’s hearts, strike the depths of people’s thoughts, and strike the more microscopic part of their existence. Tell me, how great is their power?!” (Lecture at Conference in Switzerland, September 4th and 5th, 1998, Geneva)

Isn’t the purpose of creating art to educate others and move people’s hearts? Only with high xinxing (mind/heart nature, moral character) and pure thoughts can a high-quality, touching piece of art be created. Of course, certain artistic techniques are necessary in order to produce a masterpiece. When Master Li talked about a qigong master:

'I went over there to take a look... His mind was preoccupied with money and fame. How could he have gong? His qi could not be good, either...I would say that whoever bought them would be miserable. How could the black qi be good? That person's whole face looked dark. He was obsessed with money and only thought about money—how could he have any gong? ... When you go home and write a few words—no matter how your handwriting is—it carries gong! ...As a person with genuine gong and energy, you do not need to give it off intentionally; you will leave energy on whatever you touch, and it will all be shining brightly.” (From “Martial Arts Qigong” in Lecture Six of Zhuan Falun)

Since purchasing the works of bad calligraphers and artists will bring bad influences, whoever purchases those works will have bad luck; on the other hand, if you purchase works by a good calligrapher or artist, you will benefit from it, or at least you will not be affected adversely. When you are viewing the work of a calligrapher or a painter, you will gradually and unknowingly be affected by his spirit. Therefore, not only must the persons creating the calligraphy or art have high xinxing, but purchasers should also choose works by calligraphers and artists with high xinxing.

But nowadays,' ... As for artwork, nobody can tell whether it is genuine art or something else. There were no such things in our ancient Chinese traditional arts. The traditions of our Chinese nationality were not invented or created by any one person. In addressing prehistoric culture, I mentioned that everything has its origin. (From “A Clear and Clean Mind” in Lecture Nine of Zhuan Falun)

The craft of traditional Chinese painting is a gift from the gods and has a long history. Not only is it a few thousand years old but, arguably, it also has been passed down through an even more remote era. It has a long-standing root like Chinese qigong, which is from very ancient times. Master Li said, “Human culture is given to humans by Gods.” (From “Using at Will”) Contemporary art and culture have been passed down from ancient times, and those artistic cultures were from previous civilizations, that is to say, they were prehistoric cultures or prehistoric civilizations. Then, who were the ones before them? Master Li said, “In fact, not only is qigong passed down from a distant age, Taiji,1 Hetu, Luoshu,2 the Book of Changes,3 the Eight Triagrams,4 etc., are all inherited from prehistory.” (From “Qigong is Prehistoric Culture” in Lecture One of Zhuan Falun) Of course, we cannot include impressionist and abstract arts among these. Those art forms are from a deviated society and cannot be considered genuine, traditional works of art.

The ideology of today’s human beings who have deviated from traditional values encompasses many fields; for example, art, culture, concepts, script, and various others. Modernism is definitely a deviated, non-human culture as well. When I was having my art exhibit in St. Petersburg, an elderly artist who is a graduate from the famed Leningrad Academy of Art commented that my visit was to cleanse European art and that modernist art was poisoning the pure minds of children. He asked me to stay in Russia for a few more days to save Russian children. The next day we visited the Children’s Art Centre in St. Petersburg and taught the children Falun Gong. We left them the precious book Zhuan Falun and explained to them the distinguishing features of Chinese art.

During the last hundred years or so, the world has virtually become smaller due to developments in transportation and the expansion of communications networks. In China there were people who advocated “Chinese system, Western utility.” Now there are others who advocate “Integrate China and the West; make foreign things serve China.” This attitude has affected Chinese buildings, medicine, culture, the arts and the written language. I followed my teachers’ teachings, upheld traditions, and didn’t meddle in stylish trends. I have preserved the pure and distinct style of traditional Chinese art. It was not easy to do.

It seems to me that my life was created for my art. But before I learned Falun Gong, the hundreds of large and small joints in my body were all affected by necrosis. Eating and walking were excruciatingly painful. I had lost my ability to paint! After learning Falun Gong, it was only a very short time before I regained my health and could paint again. The miraculous Dafa, the great and benevolent Master Li saved me and gave me a second chance in life. When Jiang Zemin and his criminal organization defamed Falun Gong and our great and merciful Master, I went to China to tell the Chinese government about my personal experience, so that they would end the bloody persecution and suppression of Falun Gong. Because of this, I was imprisoned for eight months. In those months, I was assaulted, tortured, humiliated, and forced to work as a slave laborer. They used all sorts of inhumane measures to persecute me. All Falun Gong practitioners in China today are facing exactly what I experienced. That is why we appeal with our urgent S.O.S. message to the governments, media, and all kind-hearted people of the world to support and assist us in stopping the Chinese regime’s bloody persecution and heinous suppression of Falun Gong.

I have visited more than sixty cities in over twenty countries to exhibit my paintings, including Sweden, Poland, Spain, Canada, Ireland, Australia, Turkey, Germany, Russia, Holland, Japan, Ukraine, France, Israel, India, and the United Kingdom. The audience unanimously praised the beauty of traditional Chinese painting very highly. It is a pity that there are so few people involved in traditional Chinese painting. There are not many paintings like these to be seen nowadays. There were thousands of daily visitors to my art exhibitions; many brought bags after bags of gifts to thank me, and some even invited me to return. In Ukraine alone, visitors left 27 pages of very moving comments in the guest book, thirty to forty reporters surrounded me vying to gather material for their newspapers, and the government assisted me by providing a venue in their largest national museum for the exhibition. Similarly, members of the Canadian Parliament provided space in their Parliament building. The Mayor of Dublin used his office for this purpose. The curator of a German art museum provided a three-story culture hall for my exhibition. The head of the district in Paris with the highest Chinese population in the city hosted my exhibition in the district government building. The Queen of the Netherlands, the President of the European Union, government officials, councillors and Members of Parliament in Australia all sent me letters of congratulations. Many Japanese members of the Diet donated money to my exhibition.

Learning Falun Gong enabled my paintings to reach a high level, capturing the spirit of divine. That is because I have come to understand that Zhen-Shan-Ren (Truthfulness-Compassion- Forbearance) is the most fundamental Buddha Law and the highest characteristics of the universe. Using “Truthfulness Benevolence Forbearance” as the guiding principle in my paintings, I have been able to inject benevolence and purity into my work. A Japanese Parliament member commented that the eyes of every character in my paintings showed kindness and mercy. One curator of a German art museum said that my three paintings of Buddha seemed to have colors that were out of this world. He asked several times what colors I had used and couldn’t believe it when I said that I had used regular colors.
I have painted many different portraits of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, commonly known as the Goddess of Mercy. The painting named “Ci Hang” (Benevolent Journey) depicts Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara standing on a lotus pad and floating on the surging sea of bitterness, with one hand holding a vase and the other holding a sprig of willow. She calmly uses the willow sprig to sprinkle the clean water from the vase to the masses. The clean water represents her boundless supernatural power and mercy. Wherever the clean water drops there will be no calamity or suffering. Why is Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara able to help the needy and relieve the distressed? Why is she able to eliminate human illnesses, disasters and sufferings? By sprinkling clean water, she is actually using her boundless supernatural powers and mercy to alleviate all human karma.

Our society is in the Dharma-ending period. Everybody has accumulated a lot of karma with darkness all around, circulating in the process of reincarnation. Not only in the human world, but even among animals, plants, matter, and so on, all are filled with karma. The whole world is enveloped by karma. That is why there are epidemics, wars and disasters. If we hope for well-being and happiness, we must first get rid of all the karma.

Some people do not understand this principle and always plan to use their personal “efforts” to change their “fates.” They want to earn a lot of money and gain a lot of happiness. Is it possible? One’s fate has been arranged at birth. The karma of your previous life has already determined your fate in this life. If you do not eliminate the source of your suffering, then the more you 'struggle,' the more karma you will accumulate and the more you will suffer. Later, you will suffer even more. We the practitioners of Falun Dafa are able to eliminate our karma through cultivation and assimilate into the characteristics of the universe. Then, and only then, can we alter our fate. All Falun Dafa practitioners read the books of Dafa, perform the exercises, and cultivate themselves using Zhen-Shan-Ren as the guiding principle in this complicated society. When we meet with problems, we look inward to find the reason for the problem. We are good people, and we continuously strive to be better people. This is what enables us to completely eliminate the karma we have accumulated through the ages. In this way we can truly change our fate. In this way, Master Li is truly benevolent toward mankind and offers us salvation.

“The Fa rectifies the cosmos, the Evil is completely eliminated.” The evil Jiang Zemin thinks that he can use torture, imprisonment, brainwashing and various forms of persecution in his vain hope of transforming the Dafa practitioners. They illegally imprisoned me for eight months. They used all manners of savage and inhuman brutality on me, trying to force me to forsake my cultivation. I used Zhen-Shan-Ren to battle them and I won. The Evil was defeated.

Evil is so incompetent and insignificant,
Evil is so incapable,
Evil has no way of diminishing benevolence,
Evil cannot destroy hope,
Evil is unable to erode beliefs and convictions,
Evil cannot engulf peace,
Evil cannot wreck faith,
Evil is unable to conceal crimes,
Evil cannot violate the soul,
Evil has no way of changing the truth,
Evil cannot contain the spirit,
Evil will never be able to weaken the mighty power of Dafa.

Now, I’d like to present several of my works to you:

“Self Portrait”: “Falun Dafa is good, cultivating Zhen-Shan-Ren, Falun Dafa has saved me, I will never forget my merciful Master.” Before I learned Falun Gong, I suffered from necrosis of all the joints in my body. Eating and walking were excruciatingly painful. I lost my ability to paint! After learning Falun Gong, I regained my health in a very short time. I was able to continue with my painting. I told my parents about this miraculous Falun Gong, and they in turn told their friends. Many other practitioners have done the same thing. One person told ten people about Falun Gong. Those ten people then told one hundred other people about Falun Gong. In this way, the message of Falun Gong has been transmitted to many people and to over forty countries and regions through the word of mouth. There are over one hundred million Falun Gong practitioners worldwide. Our merciful Master has given salvation to tens of millions of Dafa practitioners.

Shui meiren” (Sleeping Beauty): “Complicated and confusing affairs of the human life are but a dream/Whether one is right or wrong, a success or failure, things change and vanish in an instant/ Even the cat understands that being idle is good/So he accompanies me in repose from dawn till dusk.” After I joined the work force, I came in contact with society, mixing with all types of people. I noticed some of the problems in society and felt very uneasy. Everything in this world —fame, profit, sentiments—was illusion, disappearing in a flash. Everyone was involved in vying with each other, competing, grabbing, struggling, cheating and even killing. That was really tiring! Sometimes I felt that it would be better for me to sleep from dawn to dusk, and continue sleeping through the night! Only in this way could I relieve my agony. At that moment, I did not know what cultivation was and had never heard of Falun Dafa. I didn’t know then that sleeping was a method of evasion and that it could never solve any problems. When I first read Zhuan Falun it immediately woke me up. The principles of Falun Gong directly point at our hearts and teach Dafa practitioners to view name and fame as trivial matters, and to take human desires lightly. The principles teach us to be good and accumulate virtue. Falun Dafa is a cultivation method in the midst of complicated everyday human society, transforming virtue into gong. One cultivates one's Main Consciousness. While in prison, other inmates all said that I am above the level of an ordinary human. Under such abominable conditions, I was still able to go through each day with a smile on my face and felt neither anxiety nor agony. The inmates said that I was a supernatural being and that I was an extraordinary person. Only humans have agony, gods do not.

Nanji xianweng,” also known as “Lao Shouxing.” In Chinese legends, Nanji xianweng is an immortal being in the South Pole, as old as heaven and earth. He rides on a crane that is a thousand years old, but when compared to him, the crane is only a youngster. In an ancient Chinese legend, there was a star in heaven known as “shouxing” (longevity star), which was also known as “nanji laorenxing” (the old benevolent star in the South Pole). People say that whenever this star appeared, peace reigned on earth. Tradition has it that this immortal rode on the back of a crane, so the crane was known as the immortal crane and became the symbol of longevity. There is a Chinese idiom, “wishing you the longevity of the crane or the pine tree.” Humans who cultivate can achieve extended life and also become younger. Falun Gong is a type of high-level cultivation that enables one to acquire cultivation energy quickly. Since I started practicing Falun Gong, I look much younger than my actual age. Through cultivation, I change myself, continuously upgrading my moral qualities and becoming a better person so as to assimilate to the characteristic of the universe, Zhen-Shan-Ren. This will allow me to be as old as heaven and earth. I hope everyone reads Zhuan Falun. It will provide you with a new understanding to the meaning of life and science.
“Throughout the ages, only ‘the Buddha Fa’ has been able to perfectly provide a clear exposition of humanity, every dimension of material existence, life, and the entire universe.” (From “Lunyu” in Zhuan Falun)


1 Taiji (tie-jee)—the symbol of the Tao School, popularly known in the West as the 'yin-yang symbol.'
2 Hetu (huh-too), Luoshu (luoa-shew)—prehistoric diagrams that appeared in ancient China and are thought to disclose the change of the course of nature
3 Book of Changes—an ancient Chinese book of divination dating from the Zhou dynasty (1100 B.C.-221 B.C.).
4 Eight Triagrams—from the Book of Changes, a prehistoric diagram thought to disclose the changes of the course of nature.

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