Sitting with Clothes Unbuttoned and Legs Stretching Out
The term originally referred to the appearance of an artist who is concentrating on painting. It has been extended to mean an unrestrained state of mind free from external interruption when an artist is doing creative work. The book Zhuangzi describes a painter drawing freely with his clothes thrown open and legs stretching out. “To unbutton one’s clothes” is to expose one’s chest and arms; and “to sit with legs stretching out” indicates a casual posture while one is concentrating on painting. This term stresses the importance of a relaxed state and complete freedom of mind to the successful creation of quality artwork. This concept had significant influence on subsequent development of theories on calligraphy and painting in later generations.
- 昔宋元君将画图，众史皆至，受揖而立，舐笔和墨，在外者半，有一史后至，儃 （tǎn）儃然不趋，受揖不立，因之舍，公使人视之，则解衣盘礴，臝。君曰：“可矣，是真画者也。” （昔时宋元君准备作画，所有的画师都赶来了，行礼后毕恭毕敬地站着，舔笔调墨，还有一半的人在外面等着。有一个画师来晚了，他悠闲自得，接受了旨意也不恭候站立，随即回到馆舍里去。宋元君派人去看，只见他袒胸露背，叉开腿而坐[ 正全神贯注作画]。宋元君说：“对呀，这才是真正的画家。”）
Once when King Yuan of the State of Song was to do painting, all the painters came. Half of them, after paying him their respects, stood submissively to prepare brush-pen and ink for him. The other half were waiting outside. One painter, however, arrived late and was casual in manner. After receiving the king’s instructions, he returned to his hostel instead of standing there respectfully. The king sent somebody to check on him, and he was seen sitting here painting attentively with his chest and shoulders exposed and both legs stretching out. The king exclaimed, “Yes, that is a real painter!” (Zhuangzi)
- 作画须有解衣盘礴，旁若无人，然后化机在手，元气狼藉，不为先匠所拘，而游于法度之外矣。 （恽寿平《南田画跋•题石谷为王奉常烟客先生画册》） （绘画必须解开衣襟、叉腿而坐，[ 排除一切外在干扰，] 旁若无人，然后手上仿佛握有造化之精微，天地自然之气纵横散布，不再受先前的画匠束缚，而心神驰骋于各种技法之外。）
When doing painting, one should unbutton one’s clothes, sit with legs stretching out, keep himself free from all external interruptions, and ignore spectators. That way, one is able to obtain miraculous creative power, draw inspirations from heaven, earth, and nature, go beyond the rules of previous painting masters, and freely use various painting techniques. (Yun Shouping: Nantian’s Comments on Paintings)