Cheng Hsieh (1693-1765), popularly known under his pen-name Cheng Pan-ch’iao, is grouped, as a painter of bamboo and orchids, with the "Eight Eccentrics of Yang-chou" and ranks among the most renowned literati of late Imperial China. His eminence rests not solely on his literary and artistic achievements but also on his integrity and concern for the common people as a scholar-official. Due to his unconventional behaviour and peculiar combination of poetry, painting, and calligraphy, Cheng gained the reputation of an unrestrained bohemian and eccentric artist. A careful analysis of his writings on literature and art shows, however, that his aesthetic ideals are rooted in the tradition of the literati aesthetics beginning with Su Shih in the Sung period.
The present study attempts to comprehend Cheng’s so-called "eccentricity" mainly in the context of the socio-political conditions and changes of the early Ch’ing dynasty (i.e., Ming loyalism, rise of the salt-merchants and their domination of the cultural milieu of Yang-chou) and interprets it as an expression of his political dissent and indignation with declining literati values.
This monograph on Cheng Pan-ch’iao is the first comprehensive study of his life and works in the three Chinese scholarly arts in Western language. It contains a biography, an exposition and discussion of his views on literature, calligraphy, and painting, as well as translations (his "Inscriptions on Paintings" are entirely translated), interpretations, and illustrations of representative works.