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Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 1172001 Lectures$
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F.M.L. Thompson

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780197262795

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197262795.001.0001

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The Origins of Chinese Mountain Painting: Evidence from Archaeology

The Origins of Chinese Mountain Painting: Evidence from Archaeology


(p.1) The Origins of Chinese Mountain Painting: Evidence from Archaeology
Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 117


British Academy

Mountainous landscapes, with massive crags and narrow fissures between rocks, through which water spouts, are among the principal subjects of paintings in China. This chapter addresses the question, why, in the first place, were these subjects chosen? It focuses on developments made during the Qin (221–207 bc) and Han (206 bcad 220) dynasties, from the third century bc onwards. It explores the ways in which the conditions prevailing in the Qin and Han periods moulded some aspects of the later Chinese practice. It is argued that the ways in which the Chinese from the Han period onwards viewed the cosmos determined their choice of mountains as a major subject for painted images. The chapter discusses attitudes to the cosmos and the aesthetic consequences of these views. It considers the whole range of ideas about the universe and not simply with depictions or models of mountains as representing one part of the cosmos.

Keywords:   mountains, paintings, Han dinasty, archaeology, cosmos, universe, Qin dynasty, China

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