Magic of nature in 11th century landscape

17:25, September 26, 2010      

Email | Print | Subscribe | Comments | Forum 

"DEEP Valley" is a famous 11th century landscape by court painter Guo Xi (1020-1190) whose mountain snow scene reflects the Taoist view that a good painting should reflect the magic of nature.

The ink-wash work (168cmx53.6cm) in the Shanghai Art Museum depicts heavy snow on mountains and steep cliffs where old trees struggle to survive.

Guo was a representative court artist in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and occupies an important position in Chinese art history. He is noted for his "three distance" theory about high distance, deep distance and level distance, or foreground, middle ground and background, recorded in his treatise titled "The Lofty Ambition of Forests and Streams."

The artist is also famous for his technique of brush strokes and ink wash to depict textures and surface of rocks and cliffs.

In "Deep Valley," the painter emphasizes the depth and height of the mountain by using a high-angle view, in which the painter looks down at the scene. This perspective reflects the Taoist view of mystical nature.

The composition is significant, classically reflecting Guo's three-distance theory. He uses high distance and bright tones to express the upward force of the mountain and deep distance in gloomy tones to show peaks rising one after another.

The ink wash is also distinctive. Light ink is used to paint the mountain covered with snow, which appears fresh in the vivid scene. Heavy ink is used to paint the trees, especially the thin branches. This kind of light and dark contrast is used to create aesthetic visual layers.

The mountain and trees appear to be falling asleep in the cold winter, but the gurgling stream in the foreground gives a sense of life and the coming spring.

(Source: Shanghai Daily)


  • Do you have anything to say?


Special Coverage
  • Premier Wen Jiabao visits Hungary, Britain, Germany
  • From drought to floods
Major headlines
Editor's Pick
  • Chinese Navy soldiers hold an evening party marking the upcoming 62nd National Day aboard Chinese Navy hospital ship "Peace Ark" in the Pacific on Sept. 28, 2011. The Chinese National Day falls on Oct. 1. (Xinhua/Zha Chunming)
  • Photo taken on Sept. 30, 2011 shows the crowd at the plaza of Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, capital of China. The railway transportation witnessed a travel peak with the approach of the seven-day National Day holidays on Friday. (Xinhua)
  • A man wearing high-heel shoes takes part in the 3rd annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an event when men literally walk in women's shoes to raise awareness about ending violence against women, at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 29, 2011. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)
  • Photo taken on Sept. 29, 2011 shows a cargo ship in danger on the sea near Zhuhai City, south China's Guangdong Province. Cargo ship Fangzhou 6 of Qingzhou of southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region lost control after water stormed into its cabin due to Typhoon Nesat on the sea near Zhuhai Thursday, leaving 12 crew members in danger. Rescuers rushed to the ship and saved them by using a helicopter. (Xinhua)
  • Actress Gong Li poses for L'Officiel Magazine. (Xinhua Photo)
  • Demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street campaign hold placards as they march in the financial district of New York September 29, 2011. After hundreds of protesters were denied access to some areas outside the New York Stock Exchange on September 17, demonstrators set up a rag-tag camp three blocks away. Zuccotti Park is a campground festooned with placards and anti-Wall Street slogans. The group is adding complaints of excessive police force against protesters and police treatment of ethnic minorities and Muslims to its grievances list, which includes bank bailouts, foreclosures and high unemployment. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Hot Forum Discussion