The Spirit of Chinese
LONG before the emergence of Chinese landscape painting, the Chinese venerated the forces of nature. The earliest written documents, the inscribed oracle bones from the ancient Shang capital of An-yang, refer to the spirits of the mountains and rivers, to the deities of heaven and earth, and to the directions. China's oldest poetry, the Shih Ching, or Book of Song, dating from around 1000 B.C., not only shows a keen sense of the loveliness of nature but also relates man to it, as in the following verse:
Gorgeous in their beauty
Are the flowers of the cherry:
Are they not magnificent in their dignity
The carriages of the royal bride.
Another song uses these images:
How the cloth-plant spreads
Across the midst of the valley!
Thick grow its leaves,
The oriole in its flight
Perches on that copse,
Its song is full of longing. 1