James Cahill on Ch’an Painting, 2: Beginnings and Muqi Fachang


This is the second of the talks by Professor Emeritus James Cahill I have chosen from his long series of lectures about Chinese painting for its discussion of Ch’an painting.

In today’s lecture he discusses the continuities and discontinuities of painting between the Academic and Ch’an style, before moving on to an examination of one of the most important of the Ch’an artists, the 13th century Muji (Mu-ch’i) Fachang.

In the first section we see some of the paintings of landscapes and other natural scenes, as well paintings of the sixteen arhats, which became a favorite theme with the Ch’an painters, and examples of the ox-herding paintings.

As with his teacher Liang Kai before him, Muqi is known for many of the most famous Chinese paintings, which have now become so ubiquitous they are almost anonymous, like the white-robed Kuan-yin.

He also painted more secular subkects, like cranes, gibbons and tigers, but it is the particularly Buddhist paintings, like the arhat paintings, which stand out in my mind.


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