Landscape Painting
by Zong Bing

Saint* responded according to what had been planned; worthies savor what defined with a cultivated pure heart. Mountains and waters, the most appealing natural landscape, are imbued with spirit, for which Yellow Emperor traveled mountain after mountain, and hermit Bo Yi and Shu Qi spent their final days in the solitudes of Mount Shouyang. “The wise finds pleasure in waters; the benevolent finds pleasure in mountains,” Confucius once said. Indeed, saint realized through divine guidance the truth which worthies strive to understand; mountains and waters prove with physical quality the truth to those who enjoy the beauties of nature.

I roamed from mountain to mountain until the day I realized that I was an old fellowm. Excusing myself from taking breathing exercises for good health, I took up the brush to paint cloudy mountains. The ancient techniques can be sensed, and the reasons can be learned from literature. From where I had lingered, and from what I had seen, I treated forms according to forms, applying colors according to colors.

We cannnot see what a big mountain really looks like, if we are too close to it; we can have a complete view of it, once we have it a few miles away. This is because further we stand the smaller it looks. To draw the magnificent Kunlun Mountain at a distance on a small piece of silk, a few inch long vertical stroke may speak for the height of a lofty peak, and a sweeping horizontal stroke may give expression to a great distance. Taking that painting is appreciated by expression instead of the size rendered, the grace of Mount Song and Mount Hua and mother nature's mysterious work elsewhere all can be combined into a single picture.

Painter sees and then comprehends. In finest work his perception is received and his comprehension is understood, through which nature's spirit is revealed and his goal is attained. This is so wonderful that even a trip to the scene can not make a better point. The spirit, though invisible, can thus be experienced in concrete matter and form. With this, he reaches the acme of perfection.

So by staying at home in leisure, by nourishing energy, by taking the wine, and by playing the lute, surrounded with paintings, although remaining seated, I travel to the four corners of the world, marveling at every each nature's wonder, savoring the wilderness of perilous mountains and cloud wrapped forests. What sense is this? It is to ease my mind, for which nothing can be more appropriate than landscape painting.

* Buddha

Ni Yuanlu (1593 - 1644)
ink on rice paper

Essays on Chinese painting

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