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Wang was born in Zhuji the Zhejiang province. His style name was Yuanzhang (元章) and his sobriquets were "Zhushi Shannong" (煮石山農), "Fangniu Weng" (放牛翁), and "Meihua Wuzhu" (梅花屋主). Wang Mian aspired to be an official, but when he failed he turned to painting for a living. He painted plum blossoms as metaphors against the ruling Mongols of the Yuan Dynasty. Wang developed his own distinct style of painting plum blossoms that was very bold and vigorous. He edited the "Manual of Plum" to describe his experiences of plum-painting. A friend wrote " Those who sought out his paintings came in crowds, and stood back to shoulder to watch. He used paintings on long and short lengths of silk in order to earn what he needed for rice. When people mocked him, Wang Mian said, ' I depend on this for my livelihood. Why, otherwise, would I want to be a painting master working for others?'"
- Barnhart, R. M. et al. (1997). Three thousand years of Chinese painting. New Haven, Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07013-6 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK]