'Heiress of ink-wash' married to her work

There couldn't be a more fitting title as "Heiress of Ink-wash Painting" for Fu Yiyao's biography. She is daughter of master Fu Baoshi, a towering figure in Chinese art history.
Ti Gong

Fu Yiyao works on a painting.

There couldn’t be a more fitting title as “Heiress of Ink-wash Painting” for Fu Yiyao's biography. The daughter of master Fu Baoshi (1904-65), a towering figure in China’s modern art history and a leader of the New Chinese Painting Movement, is a great artist in her own right.

Her biography, in Chinese, unveils a legendary life. Fu Yiyao, like her father, is also a renowned artist who enjoyed success in both Japan and China.

Born in Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu Province, in 1947, Fu studied classical literature at Nanjing Normal University. Her original wish was to study performing art at a theater academy. But her father opposed it.

“Like any young girl, I loved pretty clothes and the glamor of the stage. I thought life on stage was what I wanted to escape an ordinary, or even mediocre, life. But I have never been a real actress,” she says with a smile.

After graduation she was assigned to teach at a remote school and later started to study painting.

“When I became more mature, I gradually found the beauty in art. My father passed away quite abruptly, and now I am only able to express my love toward him on rice paper,” she says. “I didn’t think of being a big artist. For me, it was an emotional link with my dad.”

Ti Gong

Fu Yiyao and her master father, Fu Baoshi


Fu Yiyao's biography “Heiress of Ink-wash Painting”

Like her peers, Fu witnessed the vicissitudes of the society. She labored hard in the countryside and in 1979 was sent by the government to study in Japan. She was often invited to create paintings for the temples in Japan, a practice that “purely cultivated my heart and soul.”

The book “Heiress of Ink-wash Painting” not only includes her interpretation and understanding of art, but also reveals her attitude toward marriage and love.

Fu never married and she compares relationship and marriage to “boats in life.”

“There were many boats around me, but I never embarked on any,” she wrote in her book.

She reveals that she had a “platonic relationship” with Ken Takakura (1931-2014), one of the most-known Japanese movie stars in China for his roles in “Manhunt” (1978), “The Yellow Handkerchief” (1977), “A Distant Cry from Spring” (1980) and “Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles” (2005).

“We met at a special occasion,” she says. “This was the first time that I felt so close to marriage. However, due to some misunderstanding, I lost him.”

Outgoing and energetic, Fu says she’s satisfied with everything she’s experienced in life.

“I am an optimistic person. When I feel lonely, I have art as my best companionship,” she says.

Ti Gong

One of Fu Yiyao's ink-wash paintings

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