Most Outstanding Painter of Eight Eccentrics: Zheng Banqiao

Zheng Xie (1693-1765), commonly known as Zheng Banqiao, was a native of Xinghua, Jiangsu Province. Born into a poor family, Zheng lived with his wet nurse at a very young age. He learned to paint during his childhood from his father, and then made a living selling his paintings. With support from his friends, Zheng later got the opportunity to study and took part in the imperial examination in the county and province. Zheng ranked the most successful candidate in the highest imperial examination and later served as a county magistrate in Shandong Province. During his 12 years as an official, Zheng gained the respect of many people. However, unwilling to yield to the philistine ways of the official circle, he later resigned. Zheng then lived in Yangzhou selling his paintings to earn a living. He expressed his true feelings in paintings and gained high achievements.

Zheng was good at drawing orchids, bamboo and stones. Drawing from the styles of Xu Wei, Shi Tao, Ba Da and other famous painters, Zheng was adept in Xie Yi (freehand) ink and wash and raised the theory of the three steps of painting -- having bamboo in one's eyes, hands and heart. Bamboo in Zheng's paintings was the embodiment of his thoughts and character. His technique involved both dry-brush and wet-brush stroke, including forceful strokes. Zheng stressed the combination of poetry, calligraphy and painting, adding lines from poems to his paintings to bring out the themes. This theory became a feature of the scholar painting.

Zheng's calligraphy and paintings were of a high artistic value. Learning from Huang Tingjian at first, Zheng later created a new style by combining the orchid-line drawing with calligraphy. His strokes sometimes were as graceful as orchid leaves or as forceful as bamboo leaves.

Apart from painting and calligraphy, Zheng was very fond of literature. Many of his works of literature were about the lives of ordinary people, told in a simple and natural style.