Gentleman Viewing the Moon by Ma Yuan

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, /=]

“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.” /=\

Good Websites and Sources on the Song Dynasty: Asia for Educators, Columbia University, Primary Sources with DBQs, ; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; ; Tang Dynasty: Wikipedia ; Google Book: China’s Golden Age: Everday Life in the Tang Dynasty by Charles Benn; Chinese History: Chinese Text Project ; 3) Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization ; Chaos Group of University of Maryland ; 2) WWW VL: History China ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia Websites and Sources on Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: China Online Museum ; Painting, University of Washington ; Calligraphy, University of Washington ; Websites and Sources on Chinese Art: China -Art History Resources ; Art History Resources on the Web ; ;Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC) Visual Arts/ ; Asian ; China Online Museum ; Qing Art Museums with First Rate Collections of Chinese Art National Palace Museum, Taipei ; Beijing Palace Museum ;Metropolitan Museum of Art ; Sackler Museum in Washington ; Shanghai Museum

Song Bird and Flower Painting

Immortal Riding a Dragon by May Yuan

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, /=]

“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 \=/ ]

“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 \=/ ]


“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). “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. [Source: National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/]

“Hen and Chicks” by an Anonymous Song Dynasty artist is an Ink and light colors on paper hanging scroll, measuring 41.9 x 33 centimeters. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: In this painting, a mother hen leads five young chicks as they walk around in search for food on the ground. The endearingly beautiful and soft snow white down of the chicks make them appear both tender and frail, requiring the protecting eye of the mother hen. The background was completely filled with ink, which is unusual in Chinese painting, thus making the white subjects stand out even more. This painting has neither seal nor signature of the artist. Although not for certain a painting from the Song Dynasty, the artist here certainly was an astute observer of these chickens, which were painted with exceptional detail and naturalism. Thus, this work is almost certainly a masterpiece of court painting, in which realism and precision were the ultimate goals of many artists.

"Gibbons Playing in a Loquat Tree" by an anonymous Song artist is an ink and colors on silk hanging scroll, measuring 165 x 107.9 centimeters. An old loquat tree extends behind a rock and diagonally through this work as branches come back into the picture frame at the top. The trunk, although cut off at the left, still conveys the sense of the entire tree, which shows the artist's skill at compositional design and suggestion. The seated gibbon holds onto the trunk of the tree and watches another gibbon that hangs playfully from a branch above and looks down. The artist not only successfully captured the furry texture of the gibbons, but also their movement and behavior. This attention to detail as well as to rendering the spirit is a hallmark of naturalism in Song Dynasty painting. In fact, the representation of the fur is so realistic that it looks as if it can be touched. This reveals the superb use of brush and ink on the part of the artist. Besides the convincing texture of the tree and rocks, the use of coloring for them is also naturalistic and elegant. The leaves also twist quite naturally in space. These factors make this is a masterpiece of Song Dynasty painting.

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 \=/ ]

“Squirrel on a Peach Branch” by Ch'ien Hsuan (ca. 1235-after 1303) is an ink and colors on paper handscroll, measuring 26.3 x 44.3 centimeters. According to the National Palace Museum: 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 \=/]

“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.” \=/

“Pair of Rustic Geese on an Autumn Islet” by an anonymous Song Dynasty artist is an ink and colors on silk hanging scroll, measuring 170 x 167 centimeters. Domesticated and wild varieties of geese were often referred together in ancient China as rustic" geese. Here, a pair rest on a shoal with polygonum and decaying lotuses of autumn blowing in a light breeze. The goose at the right looks up at a bird in flight as the other preens its feathers behind the polygonum. The two form an engaging pair. The composition takes the form of the reeds, lotuses and islets on either side forming a "U"-shape which envelopes the focus of the painting (the geese) inside. The balance and harmony of the arrangement is also suggested by the reeds and lotuses on either side arching towards the center. Although pairs of geese or ducks with a background of autumn lotuses became popular in the refined paintings of scholars, the subject still had auspicious overtones suitable for professional artists. The meticulous detail of the plants and feathers as well as the open distance in the center suggests that this is a work from the painting academy under Emperor Hui-tsung in the late Northern Song (1st quarter of the 12th century). The seam running down the middle indicates it was made from two panels or that they were remounted together

Southern Song (1127-1279) Bird and Flower Paintings

“Plum Tree, Bamboo, and a Gathering of Birds”, by an anonymous artist, is an ink and color on silk hanging scroll, measuring 258.4 x 108.4 centimeters. According to the National Palace Museum: 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 \=/ ]

“Bamboo and Shrike” by Li Anzhong, (fl. 1119-1162) is an ink and colors on silk album leaf, measuring 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. \=/

“Egrets on a Snowy Bank” by Ma Yuan, (fl. ca. 1190-1224) is an ink and light colors on silk hanging scroll, measuring 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 \=/ ]

A Thousand Li of River by Wang Ximeng

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, /=]

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 \=/ ]

"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 \=/ ]

Plum and Bamboo by Wu Zhen

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

“The Ladies' Book of Filial Piety”, by Kao-tsung (1107-1187) and Ma Ho-chih (fl. ca. 1140-1190), is an ink and colors on silk handscroll, measuring 26.4 x 70.3 centimeters. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: "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 \=/]

“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 \=/ ]

“Seated Portrait of Emperor Gaozong,” by an anonymous artist, is an ink and colors on silk hanging scroll, measuring 185.7 x 103.5 centimeters). According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: 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. \=/

Knicknack Peddler

“ Seated Portrait of Ningzong's Empress,” by an anonymous artist, in an ink and colors on silk hanging scroll, measuring 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

“Lohan”, a Buddhist painting attributed to Li Sung (1190-1230), is an ink and colors on silk hanging scroll, measuring 104 x 19.5 centimeters. According to the National Palace Museum: "“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 \=/ ]

“Guanyin of a Thousand Arms and Eyes,” by an anonymous artist, is an ink and colors on silk hanging scroll, measuring 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 \=/ ]

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 \=/ ]

Ma Yuan, Walking on a Path in Spring

“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

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.

“Immortal in Splashed Ink”, by Liang Kai (early 13th century), is ink on paper album leaf, measuring 48.7 x 27.7 centimeters. According to the National Palace Museum, Taipei: 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 \=/ ]

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University ; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/: Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua;; 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 2021

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