During his journey, the 17th century painter Zhuang Qiongsheng became enthralled with the landscape of mountains and rivers he saw in Eastern Shandong. In his inscription he records his delight and his desire to paint his impressions:
Grace and beauty surround the hill Chueh Hua. Light flickers on the Lo Springs and Lake Ming. It is as if I am walking on a shady mountain path. The sights come so thick and fast I hardly have time to drink them in. Resting for a while next to a window, I paint a sketchy portrait of the scene. It is regrettable that my paper is so short. I cannot paint all the beauty I see.
A handscroll is viewed by one, two, or maybe three people at a time. It is unrolled with the left hand and rolled with the right, thus being viewed two or three feet at a time, from left to right. In this section, starting at the right side, we see the upper part of a gentleman walking along a path which is hidden from view. Many spieces of trees are distinguishable by their different foliage patterns. Some have patterns of fine lines, some outlined flower-like leaf forms, while others are large or small ink dots. See how many different types you can find. A group of distant trees, more generalized in form, create a background screen. Moving our gaze to the left, the foreground rocks get bigger, blocking the view of the path altogether, but beyond them and a screen of narrow trees with pepper dot foliage we glimpse the roofs of a group of buildings -- a temple compound or perhaps a villa. Next a cliff face rich with leafy plants and dotted with mosses overhangs a pool at the base of a waterfall. A few ripple lines, frothy waves, and exposed rocks help define the pool, which is otherwise rendered by unpainted white paper.
Chinese landscape paintings are meant to be entered into.
Where would you enter this picture?
Where would you like to be?
How would you get there?
What would you hear? What would be your view?
About the Artist
Zhuang Qiongsheng (1626-1687) was a scholar official who served under the second Qing emperor, Shunji (who reigned just before the brilliant Kangxi emperor) and was one of his favorite artists. He was a painter in the Southern School style following the scholar-amateur tradition. Besides landscapes, he is known to have painted orchids, a flower ever popular with scholars because it symbolizes the modesty and refinement of the proper gentleman, and because of the calligraphic brushstrokes used in their depiction. The cymbidium orchid treasured by the Chinese scholars is a small plant with graceful grass-like leaves and inconspicuous but very fragrant flowers.