The Creation of Enso San Yong – A Crystalline Union of Science and Art
Before beginning a painting, Enso San Yong would exhale
in a deep meditation and muse about a sense in his mind. Then holding up his brush, he would exclaim:
“I am going to roam about the mountains and streams.” Indeed, Enso San Yong’s paintings contain
such a picturesque ambience with misty mountains and majestic waterfalls that
viewers are often so bewitched into thinking that they are roaming with the
artist. This unique technique brought
his creation to a transcendental state, but it did not stop here. His landscape
images were not only brushed on paper, but also hidden in a durable medium,
which he invented through years of long painstaking scientific research.
Enso San Yong died in May 2001 in Houston.
His original name is Wing-ki San, and his courtesy name, or “Hao” is Enso
San Yong, where Enso means “silver bear” and Yong is a title of respect. Born in Wu Han a few months after his
father’s death, he was raised by his mother and sister, who was sixteen years his
senior. Enso San Yong spent his
childhood and youth in Canton,
a city full of traditional Chinese housing and gardens. Influenced by the rich architecture and art
of the city, he developed an appreciation and a longing for the beauty of the
traditional Chinese painting. During his
teenage years, Enso San Yong became attracted to the mystery of science and was
quick to dream up unusual gimmicks to solve surrounding problems. He decided to choose engineering as his profession
and attended Zhong
After Graduating in 1937 with a degree in Civil
Engineering, Enso San Yong dedicated himself to the modernization of the Chinese
highway system. To gain the best
training, the ambitious young San Yong joined the Hainan Island Survey team
with the goal of mapping out the blueprint for the future
construction of a highway passing through the famous Five
directly connecting the north and south of Hainan Island. He spent months in the jungle in what seemed
like an intolerable environment. It was swampy
and the smell of marsh gas constantly penetrated the air. However, Enso San Yong loved nature and as
Auyang Shan once said: “Being a drunkard, his mind is not in the wine, but in
the mountains and rivers”. The majestic cloudy
cliff of the Hainan Five Fingered mountain range, the mysterious drifting sea
of mist, and the flying waterfalls were engraved deeply in his memory and
became the rich source of his creation years later.
After a year of climbing endless mountains, the team
finally arrived at the southern tip of Hainan,
which has been called “A column pointed to the southern sky”. While they were celebrating the successful
journey, they heard about the war between China
and Japan. Without hesitation, Enso San Yong returned to
the mainland and joined the Highway Bureau, constructing roads through
mountains and bridges to speed up the transportation of soldiers, armory and
food. In just a few years, his
industrious devotion, persistence, originality, and bravery led to his
promotion as the director of the Highway Bureau. In the next few years, Enso San Yong left his
footprint in countless places, from Kunming to Qing
Zang Plateau, from Szechwan Loc Mountain
to Tibet. In the meantime, he elevated the manuscript
for his art to a higher level.
After the Second World War, Enso San Yong devoted his
life to scientific research and later became the head of the Building Material
in Canton, China. During this time, he published over 30 papers
and two books on building materials, especially on his inventions using bamboo
or fiberglass as reinforcement. He was
often invited to give special topic lectures in numerous universities to
educate the younger generation, to which he gladly dedicated time. But his busy research life did not stop him
from revisiting his childhood dream from time to time, searching for a weather-durable,
artistic medium that could serve as his canvas.
He believed that such medium would not only preserve the beauty of the
art form, but also would enhance the painting.
About 40 years ago, Enso San Yong invented a stronger,
more durable form of concrete using bamboo or fiberglass as reinforcement. He soon embraced the new material as his
canvas, and the idea of “hidden brush” – painting the picture inside the medium
instead of on the front surface was born.
During his years in Hong Kong, while he
continued to improve the medium, Enso San Yong became a diligent and devoted
student of both Chinese and Western painting.
He found himself drawn to landscape and adopted that form as his
specialty. When he left Hong Kong for America
in 1983, Enso San Yong had a fully workable prototype for his medium, but even
so, he worked further to perfect it after his arrival in this country.
In order to create the image inside the medium, San
Yong devised a technique that was nothing like the traditional painting
method. Moreover, the making of each
“hidden brush stone painting” distinguished itself from the traditional
The landscape paintings of Enso San Yong, whether they
are brushed on paper or hidden in stone, are not based on that which is
physically apparent to a painter’s eye at the moment, but more frequently, the
recalled scenery of his decades of travel through China and later America. You will find such vistas as the misty
Kweilin waterway, the bold Five Fingered mountain
of Hainan, the astonishing waterfall
and perpetual spring of Kunming, the lofty cliffs of Mt.
Omei, the beautiful Lok Mountain
and Galing River.
The artist’s travels even took him to Tibet where you will find another
landscape from a high plateau, and the view seems to be endless. In addition, don’t be surprised to find a
landscape from the Grand Canyon or Niagara
The brush stroke technique of Enso San Yong’s painting
is ever changing, at times capricious.
Sometimes you will find it fast and dripping wet, like thousands of
galloping horses; other times it is meticulous and exquisite; sometimes it is
pliable, tough yet gentle; other times it is mature and full of strength. His ever searching for the unknown in science
veiled his painting mysteriously and hazily.
Enso San Yong’s painting can be categorized into six
different groups based on his frame of mind: Listening to Waterfalls, Waterfall
Gazing, Descending Waterfalls, Waves Caress Cliff, Misty Mountains,
and Wonder Rocks. The focal point of the
first three categories is waterfalls descending lofty cliffs. The serene valley and hanging plateau are the
landing places for the viewers. Although
that is how the paintings are categorized and named, listening or gazing purely
depends on the imagination of viewers. Other
extraordinary scenery in Enso San Yong’s painting is misty mountains, which
often elevate the viewer as if riding with the clouds in the mist and floating
above never-ending cliffs. Other images that dominate San Yong’s painting are
green waves leisurely caressing curious rocks under a blue sky. The “Wonder Rocks” paintings demonstrate the
unity of East and West painting techniques of Enso San Yong
In summary, the paintings of Enso San Yong are ever-changing
with endless surprising scenery, leading the viewer into wonderland. His brush technique is not influenced by just
one painting school. His style does not belong to any group, but rather, it is
a unique style merging the East and the West.
Above all, his creation is the crystalline union of science and art.