Chinese Paintings, XI-XIV Centuries

By James Cahill | Go to book overview

Description of Plates

Much of the information and many of the comments in these plate descriptions are adapted from the excel. lent text written for the Japanese edition of this book by Mr. Kei Kawakami of the Bunkazai Kenkyfisho, Tokyo.


Cover. Pink Hibiscus (detail)

Li Ti
Color on silk. 10.2 x 10.2 in. (26 x 26 cm.)
Tokyo National Museum.

The reproduction on the front cover is a detail, considerably enlarged, from one of a pair of small paintings representing white and pink hibiscus. They are by an artist of the academy, Li Ti, who has signed them and added the date, 1197. His technique is clearly visible in the enlargement: individual petals of the blossoms have been drawn in the finest of line, but the heavy pink and white pigment covers and partially obscures this drawing. The style thus stands midway between the traditional outline-and-color-wash technique and the "boneless" manner of painting in color only, without outlines, which is supposed to have originated with an early Sung master named Hsii Ch'ungssu. Hui-tsung's Dove (Plate 5) is in this "boneless" style. Both manners of painting were popular in the academy for flower-and-bird subjects, and the distinction between them becomes difficult, as it is in the blossoms of this picture. Li Ti draws the stems, leaves, buds and calyx in more fine and continuous line.

The blossoms have reached their point of greatest loveliness and greatest fragility; the petals will soon fall. Captured at the ideal moment in this sensitive portrayal, they evoke an atmosphere of warm fragrance, mixed with the mild sadness which attends on transient beauty. In their exquisite formation, the subtle distribution of pink color on the upper one, the interplay of long curves and short arcs in the scalloped contours of the petals, they testify to the unmatched refinement reached in flower painting of the Sung academy. Such later works as the "Ch'ien Hsiian" peonies (Plate 18), although admirable in themselves, seem a bit coarse by comparison.


Plates 1, 2. Wall Paintings at Ch'ing-ling

(details)

The Ch'ing-ling, or Ch'ing Mausoleums, comprise the tombs of three emperors of the Liao dynasty. This was the dynasty of the Khitan tartars, who controlled Mongolia, Manchuria and part of North China from the early tenth to the twelfth century. The tombs are located in the mountains near the border between Mongolia and Manchuria. Here the Liao emperors hunted deer and wild boar during their lifetimes, and here they were buried, with their empresses, when they died. The sixth emperor of the dynasty, Shengtsung, spent much of his leisure time at a mountain called Mien-shan, and commanded that his tomb be located there. The tombs of his son and grandson were built at the same place, and it is these three which are now known collectively as the Ch'ing-ling.

The tombs are built of brick, and are completely underground. The east mausoleum of Sheng-tsung, which contains the murals reproduced here, consists of a rectangular central chamber, barrel vaulted, and six round chambers, dome vaulted. On the four walls of the central chamber are landscapes of the four seasons, depicting the scenery of the region. Patches of the surface have flaked away from the plaster wall. but the designs are still fairly clear, and many details are well enough preserved to be enjoyed.

-24-

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Chinese Paintings, XI-XIV Centuries
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  • Title Page *
  • Chinese Painting 1
  • Description of Plates 24
  • Selected Bibliography 40
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