SONG DYNASTY LANDSCAPE, ANIMAL, RELIGIOUS AND FIGURE PAINTING

SONG DYNASTY LANDSCAPE PAINTING


Ma Yuan landscape

Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: “The Five Dynasties and Song periods witnessed a gradual shift in painting subject matter in favor of landscapes. In earlier dynasties landscapes were more often the settings for human dramas than primary subject matter. During the tenth and eleventh centuries, several landscape painters of great skill and renown produced large-scale landscape paintings, which are today considered some of the greatest artistic monuments in the history of Chinese visual culture. [Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\]

“These landscape paintings usually centered on mountains. Mountains had long been seen as sacred places in China--the homes of immortals, close to the heavens. Philosophical interest in nature could also have contributed to the rise of landscape painting, including both Daoist stress on how minor the human presence is in the vastness of the cosmos and Neo-Confucian interest in the patterns or principles that underlie all phenomena, natural and social./=\

“The essays that have been left by a handful of prominent landscape painters of this period indicate that pictures of mountains and water (shan shui, the literal translation of the Chinese term for landscape) were heavily invested with the numinous qualities of the natural world. Landscape paintings allowed viewers to travel in their imaginations, perhaps the natural antidote to urban or official life. /=\

“Landscape painting was not entirely new to the Five Dynasties and Song. Most of the landscapes painted during the Tang were executed in blue and green mineral-based pigments, which gave the painting surface a jewel-like quality.At first glance, Song and Yuan landscapes seem to conform to a narrow set of compositional types, with requisite central mountains, hidden temples, and scholars strolling along a path. In fact, the landscape tradition developed slowly as painters gained technical facility and consciously chose to allude to earlier styles or bring out philosophical or political ideas in their work.” /=\

Good Websites and Sources on the Song Dynasty: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, afe.easia.columbia.edu ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; San.beck.org san.beck.org ; BCPS bcps.org ; Good Websites and Sources on the Tang Dynasty: Wikipedia ; Google Book: China’s Golden Age: Everday Life in the Tang Dynasty by Charles Benn books.google.com/books; Empress Wu womeninworldhistory.com ; Good Websites and Sources on Tang Culture: Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org ; Tang Poems etext.lib.virginia.edu enter Tang Poems in the search; Tang Horses persiancarpetguide.com China Vista chinavista.com

Good Websites and Sources on Early Chinese History: 1) Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu; 2) Chinese Text Project ctext.org ; 3) Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization depts.washington.edu ; 4) Ancient China Life ancientchinalife.com ; 5) Ancient China for School Kids elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge; 5) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; Links in this Website: Main China Page factsanddetails.com/china (Click History)

Books: 1) Cambridge History of China Vol. 5 Part One and Part Two (Cambridge University Press); 2) Benn, Charles, “Daily Life in Traditional China: The Tang Dynasty,” Westport: Greenwood Press, 2002; 3) Schafer, Edward H. “The Golden Peaches of Samarkan,” Berkeley: University of California Press, 1963; 4) The Culture and Civilization of China, a massive, multi-volume series, (Yale University Press); 5) “Housing, Clothing, Cooking, from Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion 1250-1276" by Jacques Gernet (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962). You can help this site a little by ordering your Amazon books through this link: Amazon.com.

Northern Song (960-1127) Landscape Painting


Gentleman Viewing the Moon by Ma Yuan

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “In landscape painting, the National Palace Museum's three "national treasures" of Fan K'uan's "Travelers Among Mountains and Streams" (ca. 1000), Kuo Hsi's "Early Spring" (1072), and Li T'ang's "Windy Pines Among a Myriad Valleys" (1124) offer unique presentation of the achievements during one of the first peaks in landscape painting in the Northern Sung and insight into developments that took place within more than a hundred years. K'uan. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

“In Sung dynasty records on painting, the painter of "Travelers Among Mountains and Streams", Fan K'uan, is described as a specialist "famous in his day". From the viewpoint of regional style, some scholars consider this painting as an ideal representative of northern landscape painting in China. Others, from its format of arrangement, believe this masterpiece embodies a shift in compositional viewpoint that took place in Chinese painting at the time. In other words, the layered "high distance" composition derived from the T'ang dynasty has been developed into a perfected realm, this piece being considered as a representative of "monumental landscape" painting of the Northern Sung. Still other scholars, from a more philosophical viewpoint of the "Tao" (Way), believe that this work expresses the ideal of a harmonious relationship between humans and nature. \=/

“More than seventy years later, the court painter Kuo Hsi in Emperor Shen-tsung's reign (1068-1085) continued in the monumental landscape manner of "Travelers Among Mountains and Streams". In "Early Spring", he used the compositional formats of "high distance", "deep distance", and "level distance" to construct a full-scene "true landscape". Appearing in the painting are mountains and streams, woods, and buildings that appear to be of solid substance as well as elements of less concrete forms, such as clouds and mists, haze, and atmosphere, revealing the extraordinary painting skills of the artist in terms of his manipulation of solid and void. The logical relationship between the mountains, rocks, trees, and water has also been explained by some scholars as symbolic of a harmonious and orderly relationship in nature and among people in an ideal empire. \=/

“Early Spring” by Kuo Hsi (1023-ca. 1085) is a hanging scroll, ink and light colors on silk, (158.3 x 108.1 centimeters). A native of Henan province, Kuo Hsi entitled this work "Early Spring" and signed it "Painted by Kuo Hsi in the jen-tzu year (1072)." Coming after "Travelers Among Mountains and Streams" by Fan K'uan, this is one of the Museum's masterpieces of Northern Sung monumental landscape painting. Fan K'uan represented the solemn and eternal features of the mountains, while Kuo captured the essence of spring with his evanescent and atmospheric use of ink washes. With "cloud-head" texture strokes for the mountain forms and "crab-claw" ones for the trees, the landscape in this painting seems to almost pulsate, flow, and disappear (only to reappear again), suggesting the hidden forces of Nature and the cosmos at work. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

“In both "Travelers Among Mountains and Streams" and "Early Spring", though ordinary figures are shown as miniscule in relation to the mountains, the artists painstakingly rendered their status, clothing, actions, and expressions. This notion of realism and narrative derives from the travel landscapes of the T'ang and Five Dynasties period. In the middle Northern Sung, during the latter half of the 11th century, this reached a perfection of expression. The 12th century also marks the last major imperial period of the Northern Sung under Emperor Hui-tsung (r. 1101-1125). In his reign, painting was fused with poetry, and abstract images from literary sources and symbolic techniques were injected into painting. "Windy Pines Among a Myriad Valleys", done in 1124 by Li T'ang, differs from the presentation of the previous two works. It includes no narrative figures or buildings to distract from the focus of the scenery. Rather, it uses the deep mountains, clouds, pines, waterfall, and rapids to suggest the theme of listening to wind rustling through pines deep in a valley, which was often mentioned in poetry of the period.” \=/

Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: “Fan Kuan's “Travelers Among Mountains and Streams,” nearly seven feet tall, focuses on a central majestic mountain. The foreground, presented at eye level, is executed in crisp, well-defined brush strokes. Jutting boulders, tough scrub trees, a mule train on the road, and a temple in the forest on the cliff are all vividly depicted. Four or five different types of trees are depicted. Fan Kuan creates rocks, trees, and all other elements in the painting through texture strokes and washes. [Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\]

Southern Song (1127-1279) Landscape Paintings

Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: “In the Southern Song period (1127-1279), after the capital was relocated to Hangzhou because of the loss of Kaifeng and most of north China to the Jurchen Jin dynasty, court painters continued to paint landscapes, but favored small formats and more lyrical treatments. By this time, painters were frequently exploiting the connections between poetry and painting, either by making a painting to capture poetic lines or writing a new poem to bring out features of a painting they had done.” Famous painters from this period include Ma Yuan (active 1190-1224) and Xia Gui (active c. 1180-1224). [Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\]

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “The composition of landscape paintings... went from the full monumental scenes of the Northern Song to the one-corner arrangements of the Southern Song, expressing a new visual aesthetic of scenery viewed as both far and near, dense and expansive, open and closed, and high and low. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Sitting on Rocks Gazing at Clouds” by Li Tang, ca. 1070-after 1150, (album leaf, ink and colors on silk, 27.7 x 30 centimeters): In this work is an arrangement of more forms that distinguishes it from the one-corner compositions of many Southern Song landscape paintings, in which a large portion is left blank to suggest mist. Close examination of the painting, however, still clearly reveals a cleverly arranged diagonal composition. Based on this imaginary diagonal line, the upper left and lower right portions show an interesting relationship of contrasts between void and solid, respectively. Two figures in the lower right wear wide robes and dangle their feet in the water, admiring the beautiful scenery in the upper left. “The fine scenery here is filled with trees, the rugged cliffs painted with blue-and-green colors and ink washes, to which ochre has been added for variation. Delicately infused with a compelling realism of rocky texture in Li Tang's "Wind in Pines Among a Myriad Valleys" is the exquisite sentiment of Zhao Lingrang's intimate scenery, making this not far removed from the characteristics of Northern Song landscape painting. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Pure Distance of Mountains and Streams” by Hsia Kuei, 1180-1230, (Handscroll, ink on paper, 46.5 x 889.1 centimeters): Hsia Kuei was as famous as his contemporary Ma Yuan, hence their designation "Ma-Hsia." This is the most important surviving work by Hsia Kuei. Hsia's use of brushwork was refined. His representation of landscapes with large "axe-cut" texture strokes was even more simplified and natural than that of Li T'ang. The ink varies in tone from jet-black to washes of gray. This long scroll can be divided into three distinct sections, with each one revealing a contrast between near and far as well as solid and void from a variety of angles. Hsia Kuei took the spatial depth and softness of ink wash in the middle Southern Sung to its extreme. His ability to control and convey the essence of water and ink is especially impressive. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]


landscape by Fan Kuan


National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Pure and Remote Mountains and Streams” by Xia Gui, 1180-ca. 1230 [handscroll, ink on paper, 46.5 x 889.1 centimeters): “The handscroll viewed from right to left depicts intersecting vistas of mountains and water, sometimes expansive and at other times dense, forming an extremely rhythmic arrangement to the composition. The painter here used "axe-cut" texture strokes to describe the hard, rocky features of the land and added plenty of water to the brush, expressing rich and moist variations of ink tones. The trembling brushwork in the painting suggests a sense of branch tips moving in the wind. In fact, the ability to delicately grasp this kind of formless sensory experience can be considered one of the most refined aspects of Southern Song painting. Xia Gui (style name Yuyu) was a native of Qiantang (modern Hangzhou, Zhejiang) and a painter at the Southern Song court. Entering service late in the reign of Emperor Xiaozong, he reached the height of his career under Emperor Ningzong, his period of activity also extending into the court of Lizong. \=/

Plum, Bamboo, and Other Plants in Song Paintings

Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: “Amateur painters, from Su Shi and his friends on, had favored painting bamboo and flowering plum in ink monochrome, in part at least because those skilled in the use of the brush for calligraphy could master these genres relatively easily. Bamboo, plum, orchid, pine, and other plants had over the centuries acquired a rich range of associated meanings, largely from poetry. In Song and especially Yuan times, scholar painters began to systematically exploit these possibilities for conveying meaning through their pictures. [Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\]

“Orchids, ever since Qu Yuan in the Warring States Period, had been associated with the virtues of the high-principled man. The orchid is fragile, modest, but its fragrance penetrates into hidden places. In “Orchid” by Zheng Sixiao (1241-1318), the artist here has inscribed a poem on the painting that refers to the coolness and refreshing quality of the autumn melon for one who is experiencing the full heat of summer. /=\

“Wu Zhen, the painter of rock and bamboo paintings, was a true recluse. He rarely left his hometown and made his living by fortune-telling and selling paintings. Although bamboo leaves could be painted with single, calligraphic strokes, of the sort Wu Zhen used above, some literati painters also did bamboo with outline and fill techniques associated more with professional and court painters. One of the qualities sought by scholar painters was simplicity, plainness, understatement, seen as the opposite of showy, flashy paintings. Paintings of plums often were done using very simple strokes.” /=\

Song Bird and Flower Painting

Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: “When the founding emperors of the Song defeated the courts of their rivals, they took over their court artists, who included some experts in bird and flower painting. From then on, this type of painting was a specialty of the court. “Magpies and Hare” is a large handscroll, perhaps originally part of a screen painting, painted by Cui Bo, active during the reign of Shenzong (r. 1067-85). [Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\]

“Very similar painting techniques were used by Li Anzhong, a court artist who began painting in the late Northern Song court but joined the Southern Song court as well after it relocated in Hangzhou. The birds and branches in Li Anzhong, "Bird on Branch" are details from a large hanging scroll, depicting several birds perched in the branches of an old plum tree or the bamboo next to it. The painting was probably done by artists serving under Huizong (r. 1100-1125). /=\

“Throughout the Southern Song exacting depiction of nature was appreciated at court. Beginning in Huizong's reign, court painters were expected to be able to couple painting and poetry. Huizong had painters paint scenes that would match poetic lines. During the Southern Song some emperors and empresses inscribed poetic lines to go with small paintings, especially album leaves. In a painting below, the court painter Ma Lin has painted the blossoming branches to go along with a poem inscribed by an imperial consort.” /=\

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “A succession of famous bird-and-flower painters appeared starting in the Five Dynasties period. Huang Ch'üan of Sichuan inherited from styles of the T'ang dynasty and selected from the virtues among them. His son Huang Chü-ts'ai served under the Sung and searched on behalf of the emperor for famous paintings, which is why the Huang manner came to predominate in the early Northern Sung. "Blue Magpie and Thorny Shrubs" cleverly incorporates the poses of birds into a scene from nature to create an appropriate sense of movement. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]


A Thousand Li of River by Wang Ximeng


“The patterned decorative effect of the painting preserves the tradition of archaic simplicity and splendor of bird-and-flower painting from the T'ang dynasty. The more archaic techniques employed here include rubbing with a slanted brush laden with scorched ink for modeling the rock surfaces, ochre with ink yielding the solidity of thorny branches, and the technique of cinnabar washes for rendering the pointed fern-leaf hedge bamboo and beak and claws of the magpie. Although the sparrows on the thorny branches appear in various forms of complexity, they have not been abbreviated, which was one of the painting notions in the pursuit of realism in this early period. \=/

Northern Song (960-1127) Animal Painting

Famous Song era animal paintings in the National Palace Museum, Taipei collection includes: "Blue Magpie and Thorny Shrubs" by Huang Chü-ts'ai; "Magpies and Hare" by Ts'ui Po, Five Dynasties (Liang) and “Monkey and Cats” by I Yuan-chi.

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: ““In the reign of Emperor Shen-tsung, the style of Ts'ui Po was fashionable. Ts'ui not only captured the objects with a sense of liveliness, he also fastidiously produced compositions of clever animation. In his "Magpies and Hare" appear two magpies trying to scare off a hare, which looks back at them for a steady triangular relationship in contrast to the tension of the scene. The leaves and branches, bamboo, and grasses bend in the breeze to add a sense of movement to the otherwise static scenery. The magpies were rendered in forms with fine outlines of ink filled with colors, and the fur of the hare was done with fine lines, concealing the outlines and achieving a realistic effect. The leaves, bamboo, and grasses are also done with outlines filled with colors, but the thorny branches are in the "boneless" manner of wash painting, while rough touches of the brush on the tree trunk and the slanted brushwork for the slope both imbue the entire work with a heightened sense of animation.” [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

“Monkey and Cats” by I Yuan-chi, fl. 11th century is a handscroll, ink and colors on silk (31.9 centimeters x 57.2 centimeters): “In this painting, a pet kitten with a red ribbon collar is held in the clutches of a monkey. With a calm yet mischievous look, it is tethered to a stake in the ground. Perhaps the kitten was caught as it was passing by the monkey. The kittens were rendered with extremely fine brushstrokes to which was added washes of color, and the monkey was rendered in the same manner. The satisfied monkey, fearful captured kitten, and angry other kitten have all been captured and portrayed by the artist in the dramatic scene shown here. Frozen in naturalistic positions against a blank background, the spirit and appearance appear quite true to life. The realism here accords with the ideals of naturalism sought by artists of the Northern Sung (960-1126).[Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/]

“I Yuan-chi was a native of Ch'ang-sha, Hunan. He at first specialized in painting birds and flowers. However, when he saw the works of Chao Ch'ang (a master in bird-and-flower painting), he decided to turn another subject in which no one had achieved fame. Going deep into the mountains of Hunan and Hubei, he observed monkeys, gibbons, and other animals. Returning to Ch'ang-sha, he set up a garden to observe flora and fauna. Consequently, he achieved fame in painting the previously uncharted genre of monkeys. \=/

Southern Song (1127-1279) Animal Paintings

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: Animal and “bird-and-flower painting went from the full compositions of the Northern Song with their feeling of animals in Nature to the selection of more intimate scenes, using close-up and realistic techniques to describe a branch of blossoms, a single bird or animal, or a few clumps of grass and insects, for instance. Brushwork tends to be more reserved and suggestive but still with strokes rich in expression, simplifying the complexity of Nature while expressing the unique features of the artist complemented by dramatic applications of monochrome ink. In addition, the reciprocal fusion of poetry, painting, and calligraphy formed a paradigm that was emulated by later generations.” [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Squirrel on a Peach Branch” by Ch'ien Hsuan (ca. 1235-after 1303, (handscroll, ink and colors on paper, 26.3 x 44.3 centimeters): The focus of this work is on the squirrel stealthily making its way along the branch of a peach tree towards the two fruit it has eyed. The elements are balanced in the horizontal composition here. The simplified yet elegant form of the squirrel has been rendered in delicate brushstrokes combined with washes for a soft and light feeling. The dark ink of the feet and eyes emphasize the position and determination of the squirrel. The simple composition, pure coloring, and fine brushwork all follow in the tradition of Sung dynasty bird-and-flower painting but combined with the lyrical touch of a scholar painter. For the leaves, the artist used outlines in mature brushwork with washes of color added. The light and elegant coloring reflects the personal touch of Ch'ien Hsuan, one of the forerunners of scholar art in the Yuan dynasty. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/]


A Thousand Li of River by Wang Ximeng


“Ch'ien Hsuan, a native of Wu-hsing in Zhejiang, may have died as late as 1307. A civil service graduate of 1261 under the Sung dynasty, in the early Yuan dynasty he was known along with Chao Meng-fu as one of the Eight Talents of Wu-hsing. Although scholars such as Chao Meng-fu served the Mongols in the Yuan, Ch'ien Hsuan chose reclusion in the countryside, excelling at poetry, calligraphy, and painting. His art looked beyond the lyrical realism of Sung court painting for an elegant evocation of older styles. He thus achieved praise for his character as well as his painting.” \=/

Southern Song (1127-1279) Bird and Flower Paintings

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Plum Tree, Bamboo, and a Gathering of Birds”, Anonymous (Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 258.4 x 108.4 centimeters): On a slope grows an old plum tree surrounded by thorns, grasses, and elegant green bamboo. Perched among them are grosbeaks, shrikes, and doves. Behind the trunk of the plum tree is a quail. The composition is stable and the branches are complex, but not chaotic. The arching branches extend from right to left to carve out a space, offset the vertical arrangement, and suggest tensile force. This also gives the work rhythmic flow and movement, expressing the aesthetics of bird-and-flower painting in court painting under Hui-tsung. Taking a slice from nature, this work reveals considerable compositional skill. Furthermore, the beautifully naturalistic details of blossoms, plants, and birds reflect the artist's meticulous observation. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Bamboo and Shrike” by Li Anzhong, fl. 1119-1162, (album leaf, ink and colors on silk, 25.4 x 26.9 centimeters): “This painting of a Chinese great gray shrike is signed "Painted by the Military Classicist Li Anzhong," the signature providing important reference material for the artist. The bird and bamboo are done in the double-outline method, while the thorny branch is rendered in the "boneless" wash method, giving it a "sketchy" feel. The ochre with ink brushwork added to it increases the sense of volume. Light and dark ink were used to dot the outlines of the shrike, a background of color wash then applied to highlight the white portions. Other colors were added to the light ink of the fine feathers to create rich layering. The diverse and exquisite techniques bring out a sense of life, revealing precisely the transition from Northern Song realism to the style of Southern Song spirit harmony. Li Anzhong served in the Painting Academy during the Xuanhe era (1119-1125) of Emperor Huizong's reign in the Northern Song. After the Jingkang Disaster of 1126, he reassumed his position in the Shaoxing era (1131-1162) of Gaozong's reign in the Southern Song. \=/

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Egrets on a Snowy Bank” by Ma Yuan, fl. ca. 1190-1224 (Hanging scroll, ink and light colors on silk, 59 x 37.6 centimeters): Ma Yuan, of Shansi ancestry, resided in the capital of Hangchow. Serving as Painter-in-Attendance in the Southern Sung, he specialized in landscapes, birds-and-flowers, and figures, being especially accomplished in the former. Ma Yuan has reduced the elements of this painting to a dramatic contrast between black and white to suggest the penetrating cold of winter. In other words, Ma used dark ink to represent the rocks and trees, while the areas indicating snow have been left blank. By a bank are three egrets behind the rocks, while another stands to the side at the edge of the water. Ma Yuan almost always edited the scenes in his paintings to suggest the most with the least. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]


Gu Hongzhong painting


Song (960-1127) Figure Painting

Patricia Buckley Ebrey of the University of Washington wrote: “ Figure painting during the Song carried on the achievements of Tang representations of the human subject, which had reached a high level of skill in the portrayal of individual psychologies and the nuances of the given narrative.” [Source: Patricia Buckley Ebrey, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\]

Famous Song era figure paintings in the National Palace Museum, Taipei collection includes: "Eight Princes on a Spring Excursion" by Chao Yen and “Literary Gathering” by Hui-tsung According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “ Figure painting also made notable advances in the Northern Sung. In addition to following in the fine traditions of the T'ang dynasty, a uniquely elegant form of composition and brushwork developed at the time. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

"Eight Princes on a Spring Excursion" shows eight noblemen on a horseback outing, the figures and horses all with different expressions and in a variety of poses. Attention appears to be centered on the figure in green in the middle, group interaction surrounding him being captured perfectly. To highlight the figures, the background of the painting has also been simplified and the space defined by the railing to create a contrast between solid and void. The fine rendering of the tree and rock along with the opulence of the figures" clothing reveal an opulent style unique to the imperial clan of the time. Although the composition of "Eight Princes on a Spring Excursion" derives from the format of a horse and figure underneath a tree from the T'ang dynasty, the level of refinement here far surpasses that found in the T'ang or Five Dynasties period. \=/

"Literary Gathering" is related to the theme of illustrating the Eighteen Scholars in the T'ang dynasty. Ever since Yen Li-pen was ordered to paint "Illustrations of the Eighteen Scholars of the House of Ch'in", it has become a subject for emulation by later generations of artists, who have done many versions through the ages. This work has poetic lines inscribed by Emperor Hui-tsung and his minister Ts'ai Ching on it, using an allusion to the past to point out an emphasis on the scholar class by the Sung imperial house while serving as a visual symbol of the emperor ruling over gathered talents at his command. The entire work has been done with well-executed brushwork, and the lines are succinct yet strong. The faces of the figures are outlined carefully and harmoniously, their expressions being elegant and positions of the figures differentiated for an obvious sense of individuality. The leaves of the bamboo and trees were done in outlines using steady strokes and orchestrated with beautiful coloring. The background of trees, rocks, and grasses in fine and regulated brushwork reveals the exceptional skills of the artist and fully expresses the pure and elegant style pursued in Emperor Hui-tsung's Painting Academy.” \=/

“Quietly Listening to Soughing Pines by Ma Lin, ca. 1180-after 1256 (hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 226.6 x 110.3 centimeters) is a good example of a Southern Song (1127-1279) figure paintings. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “In the foreground sits a lofty scholar wearing a gauze cap with his left leg half crossed and the other extended comfortably. With his chest partially exposed, his right hand lightly grasps his clothing as a flywhisk lies on the ground. The scholar concentrates on listening with all his attention, the pine needles and vines blowing in the strong wind, the sound of which seems to echo in the space of flowing water and surrounding peaks behind him. In the upper right corner of this painting Emperor Lizong wrote the four characters for its title and also impressed two imperial seals for "Bingwu" and "Yushu." Also in the lower left is impressed the imperial collection seal "Treasure of the Qixi Hall." This evidence indicates that the painting was done no later than 1246. The Qing emperor Gaozong (Qianlong) in his verse at the top of the work considered the figure in the painting as "especially appreciative of the wind in pines, taking great joy with each sound of the wind as if it were music," borrowing from the lines of Tao Hongjing in the Liang dynasty. Compared to the portrait of Emperor Lizong, there is also scholarly opinion that this painting depicts the emperor himself appreciating pines. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]


Night Revels by Gu Hongzhong


Ladies' Book of Filial Piety, Kao-tsung and Ma Ho-chih

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “The Ladies' Book of Filial Piety” by Kao-tsung (1107-1187) and Ma Ho-chih, fl. ca. 1140-1190, (handscroll, ink and colors on silk, 26.4 x 70.3 centimeters): "The Ladies' Book of Filial Piety" is a text written in the T'ang dynasty (618-907) by the wife of nobleman whose daughter was promoted to the status of princess. Fearing that her daughter would be unfamiliar with rules of propriety, she composed this text of eighteen chapters based on the classic "Book of Filial Piety" as a means of instruction. Thus, the text elaborates on the standards of behavior expected of court ladies. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/]

“This handscroll originally had 18 sections, but now only nine survive. The scroll is presented with an image first followed by an illustration. Compositions are centered around courtyards cordoned off by trees, rocks, and hallways to focus on the elegant figures, which are delicately outlined with elegant features using "nail-head" and "rat-tail" strokes combined with fine coloring. Though the title gives the painter as Ma Ho-chih, close examination of the work, such as the foreground garden settings, large "axe-cut" texture strokes combined with ink washes, and elongated tips of the contorted pines all derive from the style of two later Southern Sung court painters--Ma Yuan and Hsia Kuei. Stylistically, the brushwork more closely resembles that of Ma Lin, Ma Yuan's son. Furthermore, the calligraphy is more in the style of that of Emperor Li-tsung (r. 1225-1264). Therefore, this should more appropriately be considered a late Sung work. \=/

“Ma Ho-chih, a native of Hangchow, was a civil service graduate and served as Vice Minister of Works. Noted for his fine brushwork and scholarly style, he had a unique style of painting. Emperor Kao-tsung, a gifted calligrapher in his own right, appreciated Ma's style and commissioned him to create illustrations of the classics.” \=/

Southern Song Portraits of Emperors and Empresses

According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: “After remnants of the Song court moved the south, Gaozong (Zhao Gou, 1107-1187), the first emperor of the Southern Song, actively searched for artists in an effort to reconstruct the court painting academy. He also strove to reassemble an imperial collection from the scattered works of painting and calligraphy, resulting in the quick rise and continued development of artistic activities in the Southern Song. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Seated Portrait of Emperor Gaozong,” Anonymous (Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 185.7 x 103.5 centimeters): This portrait shows Emperor Gaozong wearing a black gauze cap with long horizontal slats and a crimson robe. With his gentle and refined scholarly appearance, his eyes seem to sparkle with life. This work was once severely damaged at some point in its history. When remounted in the Qing dynasty, the originally damaged background was removed and replaced with silk, to which coloring was washed in ink to match the rest. Although some difference appears in the colors, the originally coloring can fortunately still be seen in the surviving portion. \=/

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “ Seated Portrait of Ningzong's Empress,” Anonymous (Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 189.5 x 110.2 centimeters): “In this portrait, Empress Yang is shown wearing a dragon hairpin floral crown with her hands clasped as she sits upright in a backed chair. She has a multicolored robe with large sleeves, the cloth embroidered with a pattern of pheasants in pairs known as "alternating pheasants."

The original surname of Ningzong's Empress Yang (1162-1233) is unknown, because she entered the court as a youth with her adoptive mother and served as an actress. Under the care and guidance of the emperor's mother, Grand Empress Wu, she was presented to Ningzong, thereafter rising quickly. Among court officials was one known as Yang Cishan, whom she took as her elder brother, which is why Yang also called herself "Yang Meizi" ("Younger Sister Yang"). Although Empress Yang was born of humble origins, she was able to become quite learned, being very gifted at poetry and painting. Her calligraphy style very similar to that of Emperor Ningzong, she often served as his writer. \=/

Song Dynasty Buddhist Paintings

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Lohan”, a Buddhist painting attributed to Li Sung 1190-1230, (Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 104-x-19.5 centimeters): “Lohan is the Chinese term for arhat, which is used to describe a disciple of Buddhism who achieved a certain level of cultivation and escaped from the cycle of birth and rebirth. The lohan shown here is leaning on a bamboo cane with both hands and is sitting on a meditation seat. He has two attendants--one holds an incense holder and the other prepares a basket of flowers. His hair has turned white and he stares forward with a solemn expression. The drapery lines flow with grace yet strength. The use of brushwork in this painting is exceptionally refined, as seen in the clusters of drooping willow leaves above and the decoration of the seat and stand next to the lohan, making this is one of the masterpieces of Buddhist and Taoist figure paintings in the Museum collection. Although this painting bears no signature or seal of the artist, it has been attributed in the title slip to Li Sung, who served as a Painter-in-Attendance at the Southern Sung court between 1190 and 1230 and specialized in Buddhist and Taoist figures as well as the ruled-line style of painting. However, judging from style, this work probably came from the hand of a Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) artist. \=/ [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Guanyin of a Thousand Arms and Eyes,” Anonymous (Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 176.8 x 76.2 centimeters): “Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion stands on a lotus pedestal supported by four Guardian Kings. Above are seated Buddhas on auspicious clouds and below are eight Deva Kings in two rows. Guan-yin here has a moustache, but also an elegant face and delicate figure, clearly revealing feminine characteristics. Guanyin with many heads and arms comes from esoteric Buddhism, which entered T'ang China under Kao-tsu (r. 618-626). The top of Guanyin's head has 26 heads of bodhisattvas and one of a Buddha. Guanyin has 1,000 hands, each of which has an eye in the palm. A visualization of Guanyin's ability to see and assist all, this work reflects the deity's compassionate nature. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]


Immortal Riding a Dragon by May Yuan

“Against the background of a myriad billowing waves and auspicious clouds spewing forth, stands a majestic Guanshiyin (or Guanyin) Bodhisattva of a Thousand Hands and Eyes supported by the Four Heavenly Kings holding up a bejeweled lotus pedestal. On Two attendant bodhisattvas clasp their hands in reverence on either side of Guanyin, and next to them are two others in attendance holding Buddhist implements. The Guanyin here appears with facial hair, indicating a manifestation in male form, but the eyes and eyebrows are delicate and elegant. Combined with the warm and gentle look, the figure already reveals the manner of a female deity. Although this scroll bears neither seal nor signature of the artist, the outlining of the figures and lines of the drapery patterns were all done using strokes from a centered brush. The brushwork is fluid and spirited, the necklace decoration and gems inlaid onto the bejeweled lotus pedestal painted with exceptional detail. The coloring is beautiful but not vulgar, making this a masterpiece of Southern Song Buddhist painting. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

Song Dynasty Taoist Paintings

During the Song dynasty Taoism and Taoist art were lavishly supported by the emperors Chen-tsung (998-1022) and Hui-tsung (1101-1125). The zenith of Taoist painting occurred in the 11th century, when 100 artists, chosen from 3,000 candidates, lead by chief painter Wu Tsung-yuan, were commissioned to paint the wall mural Immortal Protectors of the Dynasty in the Three Purities temple at Lonyang.

National Palace Museum, Taipei description of “Immortal in Splashed Ink” by Liang Kai, early 13th century (album leaf, ink on paper, 48.7 x 27.7 centimeters): In this painting, the second leaf from the album "Assorted Gems of Famous Paintings," is a squinting immortal chuckling as he walks along. With his chest and abdomen exposed, he seems to be shuffling forward. Except for the fine outlines of his head and facial features, nearly all of the clothing was done with wet applications of monochrome ink. The brush was freely handled to bring out everything in the thoroughly drunken appearance of this immortal. This type of unrestrained painting by Liang Kai, with its abbreviated brushwork rich in Chan overtones, was highly favored by Japanese monks and laymen, later having a great influence on Zen painting in Japan. Liang Kai was a native of Dongping in Shandong who settled in Qiantang (modern Hangzhou, Zhejiang). In the Jiatai era (1201-1204) he served as Painter-in-Attendance. He refused the prestigious Golden Belt, however, leaving it hanging at the imperial court. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ ]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu <|>; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei npm.gov.tw \=/ Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.

Last updated November 2016

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