CLP 105: 1990 “A Functional Approach to Chinese Landscape Painting.” Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Munakata Lecture, for Sacred Mts. symposium, November 1990.

Pleased to be here on occasion of this major exhibition, at invitation of my old friend & colleague Kiyo Munakata. I believe I am performing a special function here today, which I’m happy to perform; I think he invited me partly with the idea of having presented another point of view on Chinese landscape paintings, and paintings of sacred mountains. Kiyo tends to be drawn to religious readings of paintings--of which the exhibition and his catalog are wonderful expressions--while I’ve always tended to be drawn to secular aspects or accounts of the subject.

He remarks in his catalog essay that studies of Ch. ptg. have tended in recent times to concentrate on the secular, and that’s true enough; but that, in turn, has in some part been a reaction to an earlier phase in Asian art studies in which the emphasis was heavily on the religious, especially the Buddhist. Japanese scholarship has tended that way, and pioneer U.S. and European specialists were inclined to follow them, besides being strongly influenced by the Anglo-Indian scholar Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, for whom all Asian art was essentially religious--a matter of dogma with him. I, in turn, reacted strongly against that when I came into the field in the 1940s-50s; it was a time when too many people were inclined to credit virtually everything interesting in Asian art to Ch’an or Zen Buddhism--people wrote as though whatever was spontaneous, or intuitive, or witty, or any other of the good things, in Chinese and Japanese art was that way because of Zen. Profoundly untrue; I launched a kind of campaign against this kind of thinking, which Kiyo will remember well. Have softened, but essentially still at it. So you find me here, talking about “A Functional Approach to Chinese Landscape Painting.”

What do I mean by functional? Let me answer that with a reminiscence. Some years ago one of my best students, Cheng-chi or Ginger Hsu, was taking her doctoral oral exam; and one of examiners, our Renaissance specialist Loren Partridge, asked her unexpected question. Ginger had been in his seminar on patronage problems in Italian art--her dissertation was to do the same for 18th cent. Chinese painting--and Loren asked her: why did patrons, or consumers, of Ch. ptg. want so many landscape paintings? why did they want pictures of mountains and trees and streams, that is, on their walls? Ginger was momentarily struck speechless, then responded in rather unsatisfactory way--more or less as I would have; we hadn’t really thought through this question, or investigated it, as much as we should have. We had gone along with general practice of locating meaning of painting, and reason for producing it, always in artist; had vague mode of explanation according to which artist had thoughts and feelings about nature, philosophical or religious or whatever, and felt urge to express these in painting, without caring much about what happened to it afterwards. But if you begin thinking the other way--artist produces ptg of particular kind because someone out there wants ptg of that kind--which is far truer account of how works of art come into existence, at least until quite recent times--other questions arise, like the one Loren Partridge asked Ginger. And they are the ones I mean to address today.

My main point will be that readings Kiyo gives in his catalog essay for landscape imagery, Taoist and Buddhist and geomantic and metaphysical, seem to me perfectly right for early periods; less right, most of the time, for later periods. Kiyo’s essay covers the period from the pre-Han period to the T’ang dynasty, the eighth century; many of the objects in the exhibition, however, are later, and he acknowledges that later people came to the mountains, and depicted mountains, for other kinds of reasons. It is those I mean to explore. So in a sense I am here as a supplement to his impressive achievement, to talk about the other side, so to speak. Not matter of equal time--there will be a whole symposium tomorrow with people giving papers on religious aspects of mountain imagery in China, going on all day, whereas I don’t mean to talk that long, you will be happy to learn.

Although I will speak today mainly about works of later centuries, Sung and after, I will begin with a few observations about early periods.

S,S. Po-shan Lu, Freer. It is this kind of representation of the sacred mountain that Kiyo writes about so enlighteningly--as he has done in the past, in earlier papers. Cosmic mt., “animistic images of the sacred realm” as Kiyo calls related things; will leave for you to read. Accords with early Chinese conceptions of the world as we know them from texts; this excellently expounded in Kiyo’s essay.

--S (Szechwan tile, salt mines.) On the other hand, I would hold that formally similar imagery in the early periods could also serve more worldly ends. This is one of relief tiles from tombs in Szechwan, 3rd cent. A.D. or so. Kiyo points out similarity to LS on incense burners; goes on to say: “It appears that this representation was made as a laud and a prayer to the benevolent power of the great mountains in the region” and writes about “The sure naturalism that made those religious representations so close to descriptions of daily life...”

S-- (Szechwan tile, hunting ducks and harvesting rice.) I would rather suppose, along with the Chinese scholars who excavated them, that these are representations of daily life, emphasizing the wealth and power of the deceased during his lifetime (as Chinese tomb art often did) by depicting ideal scenes that might have been on his estate. Religious reading of these seems a bit forced. Better, I think, if we assume the early development of landscape imagery as a formal repertory, somewhat neutral in meaning in itself, that could be adopted by artists and their patrons for variety of purposes, religious or secular, according to needs of people who had the work done. Landscape imagery appears in wide range of contexts in early China; no time to outline them.

S--(mountain from Ku K’ai-chih attrib., Admonitions.) One of best passages in Kiyo’s essay is one in which he uses this image, from a surviving handscroll attributed to Ku K’ai-chih, to imagine what mountain described in Ku’s essay on “How I would paint the Cloud Terrace Mountain” would have looked like. This is absolutely right, and to the point. But the actual painting is illustration to a Confucian moralizing text, “Admonitions to Court Ladies,” and is accompanied by lines that read: “In Nature there is nothing high which is not soon brought low . . . When the sun has reached its noon, it begins to sink; when the moon is full, it begins to wane. To rise to glory is as hard as to build a mountain out of grains of dust . . .” So, rather literal illustration of didactic text. My point is that mountain imagery could serve Confucian didacticism, Taoist mysticism, or more mundane purposes--

S,S. From around same time, ca. 400, we have text studied by Susan Bush in important article, titled “Record of an Ascent to the Stone Gate,” which is especially revealing of how mountain scenery could inspire religious feelings and serve religious, specifically Buddhist, ends. Tells of how group of believers belonging to community of lay Buddhists led by monk Hui-yuan at Mt. Lu climbed to Stone Gate at summit of this great mountain (in Jiangsi Province), gazed out over the scenery, and experienced a kind of collective exaltation which they then interpreted in a Buddhist light. (These slides taken from summit of Mt. Lu show more or less what they saw.) In Bush’s summary of the last part of the text, “these unsought-for perceptions arouse a selfless delight, which is then analyzed by the group as a correct response to phenomena. At sunset the view from on high suggests the vast scale fo the universe; in turn this stimulates thoughts of eternal time and the remoteness of the Buddha.” The group composes a poem to record their perceptions. Here is a clear case of landscape imagery inspiring a properly religious experience.

S-- (“Ching Hao” Mt. Lu) In view of this account, we can easily imagine how a painting that captures somehow the quality of their experience would serve to arouse the same religious thoughts; so that landscape imagery could indeed serve an iconic function in Buddhist (or Taoist) context. And certainly did, in great many cases; although hard to identify ptgs that we can be sure were made with this function in mind.

--S Great rise of LS ptg was in 10th-11th cent.; crucial figure was Ching Hao, active early 10c, to whom ptg on left attributed. Ptg now on right from a bit later, mid-or later10th cent.; found in tomb in NE of China, then Liao territory. But probably Chinese ptg. Anyway: theme is Taoist paradise ... (etc., describe). Ptg. is read in way that is formal analogue to entering into paradise, or land of immortals, escaping from real world. Is this function of landscape at this time? One might be tempted to say yes; but--

S-- But other ptgs of same time have similar formal structures, different meanings: e.g. this ptg in Palace Mus., Beijing, attrib. to 10th cent. master Wei Hsien. (Describe). Confucian theme. Illustrates my argument: that landscape imagery in itself polysemous, can carry diversity of meanings & messages, religious or philosophical or (as we’ll see) quite practical. Here, landscape serves as kind of matrix for human activity, human virtue. Figures, buildings, relatively large in relation to mountains; midway between human-centered art of T’ang dynasty and “pure landscape” of Northern Sung, later 10th-11th--early 12th centuries.

S--Crucial figure in that development must have been Li Ch’eng, active in mid-10th cent; nothing by him survives, but this ptg in K.C., attrib. to him, may give some sense of what his vision of landscape was. Nature, mountain scenery, is subject; human presence played down, integrated with LS. We see here a pattern that will be characteristic of monumental landscape paintings of Northern Sung period: (Describe).

S,S. Two greatest examples: by Fan K’uan, early 11c, Kuo Hsi, dtd. 1072, titled “Early Spring.” Theme of ascent to temple indicates idea of spiritual quest; ptgs can be read as embodiments of that idea in pictorial form, serving to give viewer that experience. And, in conjunction with Kuo Hsi’s essay, which presents idea that ptg serves to evoke feelings and thoughts that actual scenery of nature would, for people prevented by their worldly responsibilities from living in mountains, we can arrive easily at conclusion that this is function of landscape painting in this period. John Hay has suggested in a recent paper--and perhaps will argue in his paper tomorrow--that these Northern Sung paintings have the same spiritual mapping as paradise scenes in Buddhist painting. This is a convincing and fruitful reading of them.

But rather surprisingly, there is little textual authority for such a reading. Kuo Hsi’s essay says more about landscape as a metaphor for social hierarchies than for religious concepts; early recorded responses to Fan K’uan’s paintings speak of their ability to transport the viewer to the spot, allow a respite from the pressures of human society.

--S. Recently re-discovered section of Kuo Hsi essay, written actually by his son who was court official, tells of commissions his father had for wall paintings in palaces and other buildings. Also tells of ptg his father did representing (etc., describe; Freer picture as stand-in.)

S,S. (Hsia Kuei, anon. in manner of Ma Yuan). Ptg of following period, Southern Sung--12th-13th centuries--very different in character; not intended to permit this kind of imaginary or vicarious participation--viewer not invited in, so to speak; contemplates from outside, presented with scene that evokes sharp, intense sensations and emotions, like line or couplet of poetry. If it can be said to have function, it is that, the evocative; sometimes political and other kinds of messages embodied in it; but that’s large problem, outside our subject today.

S,S. Later Chinese painting can be said to begin with period that follows, Yuan dynasty; and it is this that I chiefly want to talk about today, after this longish introduction. Here are two works by major early Yuan master Chao Meng-fu: early work, “Mind Landscape of Hsieh Yu-yü” on right; “Autumn Colors on Ch’iao and Hua Mts.,” 1296, on left. Artist was himself high official, cultured man, calligrapher & poet besides being painter; eminent example of new phenomenon of scholar-amateur artist. (Really began in 11th cent., but had great development in Yuan and after.) In hands of these artists, landscape became vehicle for expression of wide range of ideas, messages. Like poetry: can have philosophical content, or religious, or personal, etc. And was seen as superior art to figure ptg etc. Mi Fu, one of original group of scholar-painters in 11th cent., said: (quote) Chao Meng-fu, for instance, was able to employ landscape imagery for variety of purposes. (Describe, for these two.)

S,S. Two landscapes by Ni Tsan. He was well-to-do aesthete, collector, poet, painter; in later years, divested self of land holdings and wealth, lived wandering life, avoiding dangers that big land-holders faced in turbulent times of dynastic change. Stayed with people, often painted for them to repay hospitality. He was obsessively cleanly (etc.) So on one level, ptgs are personal expressions of his purity & high-mindedness, his longing for world in which same was true, his hatred of clutter and confusion. On another, served as highly non-descriptive “images” of his friends’ retirement dwellings, villas, houses by river.

S,S. His contemporary and friend Wang Meng also painted many pictures of this type, but with very different character. Here are two: one done for cousin of his who had built his retreat in misty grove of trees, called it ... (etc. Describe compositional structure of reclusion picture. “Landscape of property”; “commemoration painting.” One of distinct functions landscape ptg had in China; especially common in Yuan & Ming.)

S,S. (1366 Ch’ing-pien Mts., Shanghai Museum.) Now, once a type is established, the good artist will always use it for his own special purposes, often undermining its original character to make it serve some new function, while lesser artists go on repeating it. This great and unique painting was probably done by Wang Meng for a cousin, a grandson of Chao Meng-fu, and represents the Chao family estate at Mt. Ch’ing-pien, north of Wu-hsing. (etc.)

S,S. Pursuing the question of functions that landscape paintings could perform in China, we come to the category of topographical paintings, i.e. those that represent actual places in some sense. I had seminar on these; we investigated various uses to which this kind of ptg could be put. Could be kind of picture-map, supplying information to viewers as do picture-maps in West. These are sections of two handscrolls in Freer Gallery of Art, with old attributions to famous 10th and 11th cent. artists, but both probably anon. works of late Sung, 13th cent. Represent upper reaches of Yangtze River; places along the way labeled. Person unrolling such a scroll in preparation for a journey up or down the river could learn something about what he would see, relative positions of places etc. Rather schematic, uninteresting as paintings.

S,S. (Wang Fu, “Eight Views of Beijing,” 1414.) Very different is series of eight paintings of environs of Beijing painted by Wang Fu ... (etc.)

S,S. Chü-yung Gate, and real thing.

S-- By same artist, Wang Fu, is this painting, undated, which has very different character--not because artist was feeling in different mood (as used to be argued) but because it was done for completely different purpose and occasion. Another functional category of landscape painting is farewell painting, done when someone was going off to take up an official post, or returning to capital after serving as local official, or some other occasion of parting. Here, as in landscapes of reclusion, compositional structure of ptg depends on the meaning to be embodied in it. (Describe)

--S (Chang Feng, 1648). When we assemble paintings of this kind--mostly easily identifiable from their inscriptions--we find that they tend to conform to a type. (Describe) But good artists, as always, will adapt type to their special circumstances, tastes of recipient, personal style of artist, etc.

S,S. On another, lower level, functional paintings were being produced in large numbers by professional artists for lesser clients and occasions; these two by Wu Wei & Wang E, both active in late 15th-early 16th cent. Mostly haven’t survived; weren’t considered important enough for collectors to preserve, remount, etc. A few have survived through historical chance of being brought back to Japan by Japanese visitors to China, kept in temples. A group of simple, sketchy pictures found recently in Ming tomb, collected by minor official.

S,S. Still another functional category was that of birthday paintings, done for presentation to someone on his or her birthday--especially the important ones, the 60th or 80th, but also others. This painting is by Ch’iu Ying, active in first half of 16th cent.; unambiguously professional master, who worked on commission, sometimes lived with patrons as artist-in-residence, producing paintings in return for hospitality and some monetary payment. This one done for brother of Hsiang Yuan-pien, great collector with whom he lived in this way; done for Hsiang’s brother, probably as birthday gift. Filled with auspicious signs: (describe).

S-- Another of kind (describe). In works of good artists, this functional character of paintings doesn’t detract from their aesthetic quality; like great painters of Europe, could turn conventions to their purpose, create works of real originality while fulfilling a routine demand. Later, collected and appreciated purely as aesthetic objects; original meanings lost, often hard to reconstruct today. Chinese felt that works of art were demeaned by being associated with mundane situations, subject to economic constraints; preferred to write as though artist was free agent, expressing his thoughts and feelings without regard for practical matters of making a living. Again, this is a position from which we are now respectfully detaching ourselves.

S,S. (Ni Tuan; anon. Ming, “Inviting Hermit” ptgs.) We could continue with other categories of landscape paintings and their social or political functions; one that has occupied me and one of my students in recent years is landscape with figures representing theme of “inviting the hermit.” My student Scarlett Jang did very illuminating, solidly-researched study of these, establishing firmly what I had suspected: that they played some role in process or recruitment of officials in early and middle Ming (when most of them painted, by court artists), used for presentation on various occasions to compliment someone who had received post, or was retiring from one, etc. Virtuous hermits from antiquity stood for different responses to this issue, or problem: whether to accept service, or to decline; when to advance, when to retire. So: ptgs can be related to large political and social issues; take on dimensions of meaning beyond aesthetic; become, for most of us now, more interesting.

Will be obvious from all these examples that Chinese landscape painting as a subject category is polysemous, has the capacity for carrying a diversity of meanings, from loftiest metaphysical concepts to most mundane messages. As Mi Fu said, in passage quoted earlier, landscape painting is construction of mind; and different minds with different casts and concerns can employ it for very different ends. So: any statements about what landscape imagery in China means have to be looked on with some scepticism; equivalent of asking: what does figure painting in Europe mean? Means what one chooses to make it mean.

S,S. Tung Ch’i-ch’ang, great master of late Ming, subject of forthcoming major exhibition with 2-volume catalog, etc.: how does he fit into all this? Answer? as “other side,” someone who wanted to expunge all that was functional, topical, narrative, anecdotal, from landscape painting, seeing these as trivializing a noble art; he set out to restore landscape painting to pure form he believed it had had in earlier periods. Leaving aside question of how far he was right or wrong, his theories and styles had great impact in his time. But to pursue that would take us far beyond our subject.

--S (Map) About two years ago I was invited to take part in conference on Pilgrimages and Sacred Mountains in China, organized by one historian, Sue Naquin, and one specialist in Chinese religion, Yü Chün-fang. I agreed to do paper on “Huangshan Paintings as Pilgrimage Pictures,” dealing with paintings of Huangshan or “Yellow Mts.”, range in Southern Anhui, one of great sacred mts. of China. Intended to do paper that would fit theme of conference; ended up by subverting it somewhat, arguing that for ptgs of Huangshan from Ming-Ch’ing period, from which most examples date, meanings of ptgs, how they were read, why they were painted, all mostly to be understood in secular, literati context. Evidence virtually all points in that direction. Want to end with summarizing what I found. (Mts. I’ll speak about: Huangshan, Lu-shan, Po-yüeh.)

S,S. Very good student of mine named Flora Fu (who will be here tomorrow for symposium) had written masters thesis on paintings of Mt. Lu, and come to more or less same conclusion: that successive versions, or vision, of mountain presented in paintings over the centuries changed from awesome image of sacred mountain to concentration more on literati aspects, secular uses. (Painting attrib. to Ching Hao again; one by Shen Chou, great Ming paster, of “Waterfall on Mt. Lu.” Done in 1467 for teacher of his who came from that region; to honor teacher on his birthday. Whole set of associations, but not religious associations, as in early periods.

S,S. Later paintings also tend to concentrate on the waterfall, and refer to well-known poem on it by T’ang poet Li Po. One by Sheng Mao-yeh, one by Shih-t’ao; latter includes reference also to Sung landscapist Kuo Hsi. Concerns are with poetry, earlier painting; an aestheticized image.

S--Looking for true pilgrimage pictures, i.e. paintings that record pilgrimages or depict them in some sense, I dealt briefly with this painting, which may be one of few identifiable as that. Depicts Mt. Po-yüeh, northwest of Hsiu-ning in southern Anhui province--kind of lesser Huangshan. Artist is Taoist of late Yuan period, Leng Ch’ien, who went there in 1343 in company of well-known statesman of time, Liu Chi, recorded trip in painting. Not great success as painting: tries to include trip itself in foreground, approach to mountain; temples that they visited, in middle-ground; mountain itself rising above, strange shape; and distant peaks of Huangshan, which they say could be seen in distance.

S,S. Another, better-known work which might seem at first an ideal case of a pictorial record of a pilgrimage to a sacred mountain is the album painted in the late 14th century by Wang Li representing the scenery of Mt. Hua in Shensi province, a great Taoist mountain with Taoist temples located in remote places, difficult of access. Wang Li made the climb in 1383 and painted the album of forty scenes after his return. But when we read the accompanying inscriptions, it becomes apparent that Wang, who was a medical doctor, made the trip to consult doctors of the region and gather medicinal herbs on the mountain; he expresses scepticism about Taoism and immortals. So the album represents, at best, a rather ambiguous pilgrimage. What he presents is the difficulty of the climb, and the awe-inspiring scenery along the way.

S,S. He represents the Taoist temples, but as parts of the scenery, not in any iconic way. And his moment of culmination seems to be when he sits down to rest and gazes into a sea of fog (leaf in Shanghai Museum.)

S,S. As for Huangshan, the main subject of my study, paintings we have of it are from Ming and Ch’ing periods; nothing earlier, although literary records of people climbing mountain before that. Really opened up to climbers in early 17th century, when monk named P’u-men restored Buddhist temples and built stone steps and railings etc. From that time, favorite place for poets, artists, literati to go; many travel accounts, paintings. This one by Ting Yün-p’eng, artist from Hsiu-ning, painted in 1614, representing grandest of Huangshan peaks, T’ien-tu Feng or Heavenly Citadel Peak. (Cleveland Museum; in exhibition.) When we read inscription, find it was done for birthday of official. Inscription: “Clouds arise from the dale of the “Dark Plateau”; The morning sun is over the peak of the Heavenly Citadel.” Reference to heavy clouds, in painting and poem, implies that official’s benevolence toward people like clouds that bring rain to farmers; morning sun implies that he still has bright future as official, although he has reached age of fifty. All pretty secular, political. Political implications of Huangshan have in fact been explored in very interesting article by historian Joseph McDermott; was haven for loyalists after fall of Ming, etc.

S,S. 1462, 1607 prints. We can see images of Huangshan in woodblock prints before any paintings; one on right is from 1462, discovered and reproduced by McDermott. McDermott found literary ref. to set of Huangshan paintings done in 1497 for wedding anniversary of wealthy couple in She-hsien; to felicitate them and wish them longevity. Presumably, it was Taoist associations of the mountain that allowed it to carry this message. Huangshan had begun as Taoist mountain; legendary Yellow Emperor had gone there to practice alchemy; peaks all named, associated with Taoist immortals and deities. Taoist presence there gradually replaced by Buddhist; Taoist templesl converted or rebuilt as Buddhist temples. And in still later times, mainly a literati mountain, i.e. one visited by literary men and others, subject of poetry, painting. Joseph McDermott writes that the Taoist and Buddhist “hold over the mountain began to slip by no later than the thirteenth century, when Huangshan began to become the concern of literati from the surrounding prefectures, especially Huizhou.” Literary society founded there, etc. This transformation of mountain, or religious and cultural associations of it, seems to be reflected in images of it. Early images of Huangshan, before late Ming, do present Taoist mountain, with strange peaks where immortals might indeed dwell; seen as more or less inaccessible. This is Huangshan as a numinous vision. Early travel accounts have the same character.

S,S. 1633 Ming-shan t’u; 1648 T’ai-p’ing shan-shui. As time goes on, Huangshan more and more accessible, familiar; this change in people’s perceptions of it reflected in images presented in prints. 1633, 1648. Seems less a divine mountain inhabited by immortals now, more like place one might go for mountain-climbing and contemplation of nature; which is just what was happening. Was Huangshan still site for pilgrimages by Buddhists or Taoists? Presumably so; but haven’t left records, either literary or pictorial, to my knowledge. Other papers in the symposium were about real pilgrimage sites, Mt. Chiu-hua or Nine Floriate Mt. not far from Huangshan, sacred to Ti-tsang or Ksitigarbha; Mt. P’u-t’o, sacred to Kuan-yin or Avalokitesvara, Wu-tang Mt., Taoist Mt., about which Gary Seaman wrote (and will give paper tomorrow.) But none of these, to my knowledge, are subjects of paintings; whereas sacred mountains that are subjects of paintings, such as Mt. Lu, Huang-shan, etc., are the ones that were “taken over” by literati.

S,S. Two sections of handscroll in Boston M.F.A. representing Huangshan (? uncertain, but names written on it are Huangshan peaks.) Mysterious, metamorphic peaks looking like people or animals; seem unscalable, although a few people and buildings do appear near the summits. Strong sense of supernatural. Huangshan shown as series of separate peaks; more iconic character, like succession of images of deities, rather than topographical, descriptive of place. We can imagine ptgs of Huangshan from earlier times that had, like this one, a relicious or iconic character; but they haven’t survived.

S-- Slide of real peaks of Huangshan. Easy to see why they would evoke broad range of responses: religious awe, sense of transcendence (like “landscape of sublime” in European painting), escape from mundane, poetic rapture, etc.

S,S. Two leaves from album by Cheng Min, one of early Ch’ing masters of Anhui province. Majority of extant Huangshan paintings by them. Is this because painters working in this region had opportunity to climb Huangshan, therefore painted it? Some truth in that; but more because it had become specialty for local artists, just as Suchou-region painters depicted scenery around Suchou; people who came there wanted paintings of it, artists supplied them. Rise of this group of painters, in place where no notable painters had been before, coincides (not by chance) with great prosperity of merchant culture there, famous Anhui merchants, who controlled commerce of whole Yangtze Delta region, and beyond. Traveled a lot; Hsiu-ning and She-hsien, south of Huangshan, were centers of this commerce, “hub of wheel” as one merchant-writer describes them. And from these, climbing Huangshan was easy side-trip. I ended up arguing, with some evidence, that explanation of sudden popularity of Huangshan paintings in this period has to do with that phenomenon. This album by Cheng Min, painted in 1681 for patron who had never climbed Huangshan; Cheng had, twice, and he writes in his inscription that his paintings might inspire the patron to make the trip some time in future, using this album as a guide.

S,S. Mei Ch’ing vs. photo of central peaks. Inscriptions and other available evidence, then, indicates that ptgs typically done for people who had made climb and wanted to recall it, show to friends; or for someone who intended to climb it, and wanted pictures of it to prepare himself. Latter especially common. But paintings not properly informative; artists often painted places they had never gone themselves, using schematic images taken from others. Mei Ch’ing, for instance: (describe). Schematic images, in distinctive styles, accompanied often with inscriptions, were what people wanted. Cultural overlay on place, built up over time by visitors, people who wrote accounts; by naming peaks, waterfalls, etc., kind of literary lore of mountain grew up, until people looking at sight would remember what name of it was, what famous person had mentioned it in his travel acount, what some poet had written about it, etc. These are what ptgs communicated; they became, in effect, guides to cultural pilgrimages.

S,S. Last slides: last two sections of great handscroll of Huangshan scenery by Shih-t’ao, greatest of Individualist artists of time, who spent some years in Anhui region in 1670s, climbed Huangshan twice, went on depicting it throughout his long career as painter. This version done from memory in 1699 for monk who had climbed the mountain, wanted to remember it. Paintings of this kind, it would seem, are typically not records of travel, or pilgrimages; they serve less to record any actual event than to evoke or reinforce cultural imaginings or reminiscences of the mountain, to invest it in the viewer’s mind with a set of cultural associations. They help to structure an experience that the person looking at the painting will have, or has had, or imagines having.

This is reading of paintings we arrive at by reading inscriptions, putting paintings together and considering their character, etc. Sober, solidly-based reading. But one doesn’t have to be sober all the time; if anyone wants to say: nobody could have painted such a painting without having religious impulses; Shih-t’ao was Ch’an Buddhist monk (although was leaving Buddhist order by the time he painted this, turning to secular life as painter); that these paintings, whatever the inscriptions may say, are in some fundamental way religious icons: I can’t argue against that. But has to be taken on faith, like religious beliefs themselves; beyond realm of argument, and academic investigation. Anyway, my final argument would be that any account of Chinese landscape painting that limits their content to either the secular or the religious will be inadequate; and when you hear anyone talking in grand, general terms about the meaning of images of sacred mountains in China, remember my arguments for interpretative pluralism, for assuming always that any kind of imagery was being used, in China, at any one time, for diversity of meanings and functions.

Thank you.

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