Tai Xiangzhou was born in 1968 to a scholarly family in Yinchuan, Ningxia, the former capital of the Tangut Xixia kingdom (1038-1227). During his childhood, he studied calligraphy with the exiled master Hu Gongshi (1912-1997). He further pursued the study of Chinese traditional culture with the prominent mentor Feng Qiyong (1924-2017). To enhance the depth of his art, Tai proceeded to earn a doctorate from Tsinghua University with the philosopher Bao Lin. As an artist, as well as an academic scholar, he published his dissertation Celestial Tales, which retells the history of Chinese landscape representations by delving into their origins in classical cosmology, particularly its elaborate systems of correspondence between the celestial, terrestrial, and human realms, earning increasing recognition internationally.
Tai has long concentrated on rejuvenating the idealistic forms of traditional Chinese landscape painting. His dedication to the origin and development of “Mountain and Water Representation” (Shan Shui Tu Xiang) has attracted attention from prominent eyes in the field of art. His artworks are largely based on his artistic ideologies of monumental, classicizing landscapes that envelop the vast scope of contemporary human knowledge and experience. His earlier works faithfully harmonize with traditional landscape painting from Song Dynasty (960-1279), which is a golden age for both pictorial and astral arts. From 2013 and on, with plentiful researches Tai has done for his doctoral dissertation, he further expands his perspectives of art creations into cosmology, astrology, and how they intertwine with the aesthetics of painting. His reputed series Celestial Tales,and many others,can be found in the collection of the university museums of Harvard, Princeton, and Yale. Because of their ability to invite viewers and readers to interact with them corporeally, ritualistically, Tai’s artworks and scholarly writings are frequently discussed in art history classes at distinguished universities.
In 2015, as part of the celebration of its 140 anniversary, The Art Institute of Chicago purchased Tai’s Celestial Tales 2014.1, marking the first work the museum has ever bought from a living artist. The work can be found in the publication Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago: Highlights of the Collection. In addition, Tai’s works also appear in the collection of Freer Gallery of Art, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Brooklyn Museum, Asian Art museum San Francisco, Nasher Museum of Art, Seattle Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology at Peking University, Museum of the Official Provisional Municipal Council of Macau, Zhonghua Book Company, and many more institutions.
Dr. Tai’s article Perception and Structure: Analysis of Chinese Landscape Painting in Image and Form reveals the deep system of antiquarian cosmology and traditional landscape art. He traces back along the vicissitudes of landscape forms, simultaneously using images to articulate the essence of Chinese painting. In his writing, he analyzes the philosophical transitions of cosmic dimensions detected by landscape artists from previous generations. According to traditional cosmology, he discovers the birth of landscape image and form from the sky and the stars, interpreting the correspondence between the stars/cosmology and the lands/geology, elaborating the reflection of traditional philosophy on Chinese landscape painting. Likewise, he discusses the relationship between materialization and skills through traditional Chinese painting materials.”
—— Wen Fong
Professor at Princeton University, Jr.Professor at Taiwan Academia Sinica
previously Asian Department Head at Metropolitan Museum of Art
“Tai is a friend of mine. When I first saw his works, I was hallucinated into a world created by masters from Song Dynasty. He revives the spirit of Chinese art that was born thousands of years ago. The co-existence of tranquility and liveliness communicates deeply with the viewers. No painter has been as dedicated as he is in terms of admiring and absorbing the legacies of masters Dong Yuan, Fan Kuan, Li Cheng, Guo Xi, Xu Daoning. He is living his own art with the essence of Song Dynasty tradition and his own exquisite ink skills. He also likes Chinese philosophy from the bottom of his heart, and we often talked about Laozi, Zhuangzi, and I Ching. I agree with him that Chinese landscape painting exists on the basis of traditional cosmology. Ink landscape has become the idealistic form of Chinese painting merely because they absorb and store people’s powerful and unconstrained spirit and the wish to achieve idealism. Tai knows the core of this cosmic dimension, and he materializes that core romantically through his landscape painting. Song Dynasty aesthetics perfectly nurtures his artistic developments.”
—— Zhu Liangzhi
the Head of Research Center for Aesthetics and Aesthetic Education at Peking University
Tai’s work is exceptionally figurative within the Eastern aesthetics. When seen as originating from traditional ink painting culture, his works sometimes are mistaken as pursuing abstraction. But I see his works as being notably maximalistic, keeping an intimate yet lukewarm relationship with the tradition. He is an artist worthy giving utmost attention to at this moment.”
—— Pi Daojian
Chinese prominent art critic
Tai’s style is high-fashioned. It is an extremely valuable style that rarely wastes any brushstroke. Even though he sometimes pushes too much on the representation, he would improve quickly with his extreme talents. I wish he keeps developing the spirit of innovation, and becomes one of the most prominent artists in the history of art.”
—— Toshiaki Minemura
Japanese art theorist