Shen Nanpin

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  • Born: 1682
  • Died: 1765
  • Other Names: 沈銓 (C: Shen Quan), 衡斎 (C: Hengzhai)
  • Chinese/Japanese: 南蘋 (Shen Nanpin / Shin Nanpin)

Shen Nanpin was a Chinese painter from Zhejiang province, who lived in Nagasaki for two years and introduced to Japan a shasei (drawing from life) style of birds and flowers painting that came to be known as the Nanpin school.

He was a relative of Shen Deqian, and enjoyed friendships with a number of prominent literati, including Shang Baoyi and Yuan Mei.

Shen first arrived in Nagasaki on 1731/12/3, along with two of his disciples, Zheng Pei and Gao Jun. The Tokugawa shogunate had instructed the Nagasaki bugyô to work to obtain famous paintings from China, or copies of such works, and the head of the Chinese ships at Nagasaki made the decision to bring Shen to Japan. During the roughly two years he resided in Nagasaki, he taught a number of Japanese artists who visited the Chinese settlement, directly, as well as having a broader, indirect, influence. Shen was never invited to Edo, and simply remained in Nagasaki, returning to China on 1733/9/18. According to some sources, he may have been invited to come to the royal court of the Ryûkyû Kingdom, based on his reputation before ever leaving China, but he decided to go to Nagasaki instead.[1]

Shen's works were typified by bird-and-flower paintings with a close attention to detail and a thick application pigments in bold, bright colors. This style derived from a more conservative tradition in Chinese painting, at a time when literati painting was gaining powerful support. Following in the tradition of Dong Qichang, the mainstream attitude of Chinese art appreciation now placed primary emphasis on expression through monochrome ink brushstrokes, and disparaged realistic detail and the use of color. In contrast to this, Shen Nanpin's style recalled that of the now-disparaged court painters of previous dynasties, who painted, often from life or from careful sketches, in bright, bold colors, and fine detail.

Among Shen's students in Japan was Kumashiro Yûhi, who then passed on the Nanpin style to his own students Sô Shiseki and Kaigan Jôkô (aka Kakutei), with the style and its influence soon spreading throughout Japan.

Following his return to China, Shen never returned to Japan, but he continued to send paintings to Japan, and his disciples Gao Qian, Gao Jun, and Zheng Pei travelled to Nagasaki in his place. Many of Shen Nanpin's works that survive today were among those sent to Japan following his return to China.


  • "Shin Nanpin," Asahi Nihon rekishi jinbutsu jiten 朝日日本歴史人物事典, Asahi Shimbun.
  • Objects and gallery labels, Okinawa Prefectural Museum.
  1. Marius Jansen, China in the Tokugawa World, Harvard University Press (1992), 60.