Temple by the cliff pass.
SONG DYNASTY Anonymous (aka Sung Dynasty)
12th c Chinese Song Painting
(960 - 1276)
Teipei. National Museum.
Chinese landscape painting came into its own during the Song dynasty (also spelled Sung) which lasted from 960-1279. The founder of the dynasty, Tai Zu, reunited China through is generosity to both his friends and his enemies. The Song court was of the most cultured and refined of all time. Art and scholarship of all kinds was encouraged. To the earlier Chinese invention of printing, the 11th century Song added the invention of moveable type, an invention that did not take place in Europe until four centuries later.
Early Song rulers did not like to fight and were said to have bribed the barbarians into a peaceful coexistence. They seem to have succeed in beating spears into plowshares, for the established a painting academy at court and conferred military ranks upon artists who showed special talent. Many of the Song emperors themselves were gifted artists and calligraphers as well as connoisseurs with exquisite taste.
While Song painters depicted many types of subjects, the landscape painting reached such high level of excellence that it has ever since been considered by the Chinese to be the most sublime form of art. Song painters gave exquisite form to the Six Principles which make a painting worthy (Gu hua pin lu) that had been articulated by Xie He, who had lived in Nanking about 500. Although we do not have any known paintings by Xie He, his aesthetic theories are the cornerstone of Chinese aesthetic theories that have accumulated since.
1) animation through spirit consonance.
2) structural method in use of the brush
3) fidelity to the object in portraying forms.
4) conformity to kind in applying colors.
5) proper planning in placing of elements.
6) transmission (of the experience of the past) in making copies.
While the last five principles deal primarily with technique, the first principle is the one that separates an artist from a craftsman. Artists must capture the true essence of his subject, its "qi" (ch'i) or vital spirit. They must be able to capture the horsiness of a horse, the appleness of an apple. Only then, to use Xie He's words, will they have "shengdoong" (life movement, animation). The second principle means that the picture will not be good unless the essential form is established with the brush stroke. The stroke must be correct the first time, for it cannot be covered up, as it can be with oils in western painting. The third principle might be interpreted as simply good drawing, making sure that the object is intelligible. The fourth states that it must be properly colored, while the fifth refers to good composition. The last principle indicates that one learns by studying the works of masters of the past. Only after that study may one create a style of one's own.
Works like this are not photographic likenesses of the landscape, but rather seek it impart its essential meaning, its "qi". The landscape is not presented from a single point of view is the case in Western painting after the Renaissance. Rather the viewpoint of the viewer moves from point to point, examining all the elements of the painting, the pine trees, the temples, the rocks, the ocean and the tiny figures making their way to the temple. The image is composed of a variety of elements, each described with brush strokes that are characteristic of its own particular form, its own pattern of growth and development, yet all parts are blended into a harmonious unity. The subtle tonalities help to maintain the unity.
SONG | Temple by the cliff pass. | 1150 | Chinese | Song