Tang Yin — An Exceptional Artist in the History of China and His Pathos Life Encounters

Tang Yin (1470 — 1524), courtesy name Tang Bohu, was a great painter, litterateur, calligrapher, and poet of the Ming Dynasty.  

His brilliant talent brought him renown and friends, as well as suspicion and disaster, and a series of pathos encounters.  

Poem "Zi Shu Lian Ju Shi" and Calligraphy of Tang Yin — Palace Museum 

Brilliant Wunderkind Tang Yin and His Glorious Early Years

Tang Yin was born into an ordinary family, whose father ran a small restaurant. They were never rich but lived a peaceful, happy life together. 

Tang Yin showed exceptional talent in painting, calligraphy, and literature, and became a famous wunderkind in his hometown. 

When he was 15, he won first place in the Imperial Examination of his city, afterward, his genius reputation spread widely. 

Then, he befriended other talented people and married a beautiful girl that he loved.  

During that period, Tang Yin’s life was bright, carefree, and proud. 

He and his intelligent friends spent much time having fun, taking trips, painting, and writing, and enjoying their young and brilliant lives. 

Tang Yin Painting "Dong Li Shang Ju Tu" that Describes Appreciating of Chrysanthemums — Shanghai Museum

Huge Tragedies and Determination

When Tang Yin was 24, a series of tragedies happened.

His parents, wife, son, younger sister, childhood friend, and teacher, all passed away. Afterward, his life completely changed. 

Tang Yin decided to participate in the National Imperial Examination, win a good score, and gain a political position, as all scholars of the Ming Dynasty, would expect.

In the next few years, he studied diligently, married his second wife, and gradually recovered from the huge losses before. 

As expected, Tang Yin won a great score in his province when he was 28, and set off for Beijing to participate in the final round of the imperial exam. 

On his way to Beijing, he met another person named Xu from a very rich family, and they became good friends.

Tang did a good job on the exam and was supposed to be in the top three in that year, but soon he was put into prison under the name of cheating. 

Tang Yin's Fan Covering Painting "Ku Mu Han Ya Tu" that Describes Withered Trees and Crows in Cold Environment — Palace Museum

The Wrongly Accused Wunderkind and His Lost Dream

Before they took the National Imperial Exam, Tang Yin was very confident and proud and claimed in public that he would be the champion.

Later, people found that the exam of that year was extremely difficult, and only two participants answered excellently: Tang Yin and his rich friend Xu. Then they both were imprisoned and investigated.

It turned out that his rich friend Xu did buy the exam topic from the main examiner’s servant using big money.

Tang Yin, however, didn’t do that. 

But his announcement of being the champion before the exam made him suspicious; people didn’t believe that a student could predict the result unless something unspeakable happened. Besides, Tang Yin and Xu were very close friends during that period.

Afterward, the main examiner that had the exam topic stolen by the servant was forced to resign; he was angry and sad and passed away very soon.  

Tang Yin and Xu had their scores canceled and were forbidden to join the Imperial Examination again.

This meant that Tang Yin would never be involved in politics, the dream of most of the educated people in the history of China. 

Tang Yin's Painting "Tong Yin Qing Meng Tu" that Describes A Person Resting Under A Tree, The Poem On Implied that He Would Never Participate Imperial Exam Again — Palace Museum

A Castaway Genius Living in Poverty

After Tang Yin was set free from prison, he was given a job as a low-rank officer. 

He refused to do this job since it was too far away from his actual talent, and too opposite from what he had expected.

When he arrived home, Tang Yin found that everyone had changed their attitude. In people’s eyes, Tang Yin was no longer a genius scholar with a bright future; on the contrary, he was just a banished cheater. 

His second wife soon took all of his money and left him.  

Tang Yin's Painting "Wang Shu Gong Ji Tu" that Describes Women In Royal Palace of King of Shu (901 — 926) — Palace Museum

Afterward, Tang Yin became a deviant, dissolute person that spent most of his time drinking and painting and visiting bawdy houses.

His old friends all obtained decent scores in Imperial Exams, got political positions, and serving the country as respected officials; Tang Yin, the most talented genius, however, was making a living by selling his paintings.

He bought a wasted house and lived there since then. He named it the Peach Blossom Hut (Tao Hua An) and created many masterpieces there. 

Tang Yin's Painting "Shi Ming Tu" that Describes Scholars Tasting Tea — Palace Museum

Pretending to Be A Lunatic and Escaping from Lethal Crisis

A decade later, a king invited Tang Yin to be an assistant official in his vassal state, which made Tang very excited.

Deep inside, Tang Yin still wanted to be politically useful. 

So, he accepted the offer happily and soon arrived there; now he was 44 years old.

However, after having lived in the king’s palace for a while, he found out that the king was secretly preparing to rebel: the king was training soldiers and stocking weapons, which was a felony in the Ming Dynasty.

Tang Yin didn’t want to rebel, but he couldn’t leave safely either, after knowing the king’s horrible secret.

Hence, Tang Yin started to act like an insane person, by streaking on the street, eating disgusting garbage, and telling everyone that he was the king’s honorable guest.

No one could understand how this brilliant genius felt about being a lunatic on the street and disgusted by everyone, and how desperate of having lost his last pride and dignity.

A few months later, the king was embarrassed and sent Tang Yin back.

Tang Yin's Painting "Luo Xia Gu Wu Tu" that Describes A Lonely Scholar Appreciating Sunset Glow and Water Birds — Shanghai Museum

Leaving the World in Desperate

Tang Yin was proved right later, this king initiated a rebel war years later, and was defeated by great general Wang Yangming quickly. 

Tang Yin was safe, but also super disappointed and dispirited.

And his beloved third wife, a woman that highly worshiped Tang Yin, already passed away.

Again, he buried himself in alcohol and passed away a few years later. 

This extraordinary genius never got the chance to realize his dream because of bad luck and his overconfidence; however, he glowed in another way.

The Ming Empire lost a smart politician but gained an outstanding artist. Most of Tang Yin's exceptional masterpieces were finished in his most desperate times.

Before he departed old, sick, and poor, he lamented that among the big world, the heaven and the hell, there was no place that he could ever belong. 

Tang Yin's Painting "Chun Shan Ban Lv Tu" that Describes He and A Friend, Sitting and Chatting in Grand Nature — Shanghai Museum

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