James Cahill on Ch’an Painting, 4: Sogenga and Ch’an Landscapes


This is the fourth and last 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.

The first half of this long lecture today is concerned with the appreciation of Chinese paintings in Japan, how they got there, and what effect that had on what was produced back in China.

We see a number of examples of traditional Ch’an themes and portraits, such as renowned monks and hermits, Sakyamuni, Kuan Yin, Bu-tai, Bodhidharma and others, and have a short excursion into some of the wildlife and flora paintings.

The second half of the talk concerns Cha’an landscape painting, and examines in detail some of the remaining scrolls from two sets illustrating the Eight Views of the Hsiao-Hsiang Region.

The first set, of which only four remain, is by Muqi and shows the splashed ink style of painting, which in an effective way brings light and shade, and therefore depth to the mountains and lakes they portray.

The second set is by Yu-chien, of which only three are still found. If anything these are even more expressive than the Muqi paintings, though the thing that is noticeable in these later Ch’an paintings is their almost completely rarefied vision, with mountains, lakes and people fading away in the mists.


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