The Fire Dynasties and
Early Sung Periods
THE age which has long been regarded, especially by the Yüan and the Ch'ing critics, as the culmination of Chinese landscape painting was the tenth century. Although it falls into two dynastic epochs, the Five Dynasties period, extending from 907 to 960, and the early Sung period, which started in 960, it forms, as far as the cultural development of China is concerned, a unified whole. It was during this century that landscape painting made its greatest strides and that the monochrome scroll of the type which had been foreshadowed by the winter landscape in the Peking Palace Museum was fully developed. Up to this time Buddhist and Taoist painting had been equally important, but now landscape was supreme, and the emphasis upon it led to one of the most glorious creative epochs in the history of Chinese or for that matter, any other art.
While the T'ang painters had always seen the landscape in relation to human activity, the tenth-century artists created a pure landscape in which the figures were subordinate to the natural setting. Their inspiration came from nature, and many accounts tell how the painters of these magnificent scrolls would wander for days in the wilderness, seeking inspiration among