School & Teacher Programs Online Gallery Ascending the Peaks: Exploring Mountains in East Asian Art

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1 East Asian Art Mountains are such dominating features in East Asian geography that they have played a major role in shaping beliefs and cultural understanding for centuries. They are venerated by major religions, including Daoism, Chan (Zen) Buddhism, Confucianism and Shinto, and have infiltrated popular culture. Many mountains, including the Five Great Mountains of China and Mount Fuji in Japan, have been pilgrimage destinations for thousands of years. Mountains in East Asia also had very practical implications for the development of infrastructure, trade, and agriculture. The most famous example of the role of mountains in shaping Chinese (if not global) history is the northern Silk Route, a series of trade routes that began in present-day Xi an and followed mountain ranges across China. For more information about and resources regarding the Silk Route, see our, Traveling the Silk Route. Extending across genres in the same manner mountains extend across miles, mountains appear most often in landscape painting but are also incorporated into sculpture, architecture, and woodblock prints. Often, these pieces reflect religious ideologies of the mountain, but they have also become symbols of immortality and political philosophies, and serve the more basic function of organizing the composition of a painting or drawing. Grade Level: Can be adapted for various subjects in grades 4-7 Learning Goals In exploring this gallery, you will discover: The ways in which East Asian religions venerated mountains. How visual artists used mountain imagery to explore intellectual and religious themes. This discovery will require students to: Look closely at objects and observe details Use prior knowledge in conjunction with observation Generate hypotheses based on observation and prior knowledge

2 Using this Resource: School & Teacher Programs East Asian Art Social Studies teachers and students will be interested in what this gallery reveals about the intersection of geography with East Asian culture, as concerns the role of the mountains in East Asian religions, philosophy, and popular culture. Visual Arts teachers and students will be interested in the techniques and design of woodblock printing and landscape ink painting. Language Arts teachers and students will be interested in the connections between mountains in the visual arts to how they are depicted in poetry. World Language teachers and students will be interested in studying the cultures that produced the Chinese and Japanese languages. For Sample Related Classroom Activities, download the PDF available under Related Resources. The objects in this tour are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum s online collection through this web resource or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries to look for other objects that will provide further insights into the conceptualization and rendering of the mountain in East Asian visual art.

3 Slide 1: Winter landscape with temples and travelers, attributed to Fan Kuan (11th century) Welcome to the " East Asian Art." Slide 2: Text Slide CHINA Slide 3: Clear weather in the valley, formerly attributed to Dong Yuan, colophon by Don Qichang (13th 14th century) Chan (Zen) Buddhism In Chan Buddhism, mountains were said to house vital, supernatural forces. As a result, Chan monks made pilgrimages to mountains, to meditate and engage with nature. Many monks lived in the mountains as hermits, believing that their

4 isolation from humankind but immersion in nature would lead them to enlightenment. Mountains became symbols for the spiritual path to enlightenment, with all its diversions and all its peaks. Looking Questions: 1. What kind of feeling do you get when you look at this landscape? In what ways does the painting communicate that feeling to you? 2. Look closely at the surface of the mountain. Would there be a direct, easy path to climb it? In what ways would climbing this mountain be similar to attaining enlightenment? [Hint: use the zoom feature, available when viewing slides individually rather than as part of the slideshow, to get a closer look!] Slide 4: Bare willows and distant mountains, by Ma Yuan (end of 12th century) Daoism During the Song Dynasty, landscape artists like Ma Yuan aimed to illustrate harmony between humans and nature, consistent with Daoist philosophies. In Daoism, the mountain serves as a physical link to the heavens and to the spirit world, by physically reaching towards the sky. Central to Daoism as well is the concept of qi ( chi ), an energy that is found within humans and nature. Mountains are believed to hold a particularly thick concentration of qi, and thus made ideal locations for meditation. Looking Questions 1. Do you see the shape of the mountain echoed elsewhere in this painting? 2. Why do you think the mountains fade towards the bottom? What effect does

5 this have on the sense of space in the painting? 3. Do you think these mountains look like they have a lot of qi? Why or why not? Slide 5: Confucianism [comparison slide] L: Jade in the shape of mountains R: Scholar s Rock: Family in Grotto Confucianism late 19 th early 20 th century Though Confucius was mostly concerned with human interrelationships, the ethical values of Confucianism have parallels in the natural world. The mountain represents this connection between ethics and nature: firm, stable, and immovable, the mountain contains the qualities the Confucian seeks to find in him-/herself. There is a long tradition of naturally formed Scholars Rocks in China, dating back to the Song Dynasty ( ). Such rocks were praised for their aesthetics of thinness, openness, perforations, and wrinkling, and would have been placed in a scholar's garden for contemplation. An example of a scholar's rock is on the right. The small jade carving on the left was designed to look like scholar's rocks, and would have been found in a scholar's study.

6 Looking Questions: School & Teacher Programs 1. Describe the shape of the objects. Does it remind you of anything else you ve seen in previous slides? 2. Why might a scholar want to own this kind of object? Do you have anything on your desk or in your home that inspires you or reminds you of your duty? Slide 6: Mt. Huashan Mt. Hua, one of the Five Great Mountains of China the five most renowned mountains in China, famed for their historical and religious significance. Looking Question: This is a photograph of one of China's greatest mountains, Mt. Hua, located near the city Huayin in Shaanxi Province. Do you think the artists of the works in previous slides created realistic images of the mountains in China? Why or why not? What do you see in this image and others that makes you say that? Compare. Image Source: Slide 7: Text Slide KOREA

7 Slide 8: Korea Landscape 30.5 x 51.8 cm (12 x 20 3/8in.) Ink on silk In Korean landscape painting, artists often looked to Chinese landscapes for inspiration, and blended those styles with their own traditional styles and techniques. Looking Questions: 1. In what ways can you see a Chinese influence in this painting? Can you identify any different elements that would be from traditional Korean styles? 2. What parts of the painting stand out the most to you? Why? 3. What is the relationship between the figures in the foreground and the mountains in the background? What kind of attitude do you think the artist had towards the mountains? Slide 9: New Fuji, Meguro (Meguro Shin-Fuji), from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei), by Utagawa Hiroshige I (1857)

8 In Shinto, the indigenous religion of Japan, natural objects such as rocks, waterfalls, and trees are said to be inhabited by spirits, or kami. Because of this, nature is a spiritual entity in Japan, and some sites became more holy than others over time. Mount Fuji, home to the kami Princess Konohanasakuya, was considered especially sacred. In this print by the Edo Period artist Utagawa Hiroshige, figures climb the artificial mountain in the foreground (such mountains were called kofun, and housed ancient tombs). The cherry blossoms in bloom indicate springtime, but also the symbol for Princess Konohanasakuya. Looking Questions: 1. Where do you see shapes or lines repeated in the composition of the print? Why do you think the artist chooses to do this? 2. Why do you think the figures are climbing up the mountain? What are they looking at? Why? 3. Is Mount Fuji taller or shorter than the mountain in the foreground of the print? How can you tell? Slide 10: Comparison Slide L: New Fuji, Meguro (Meguro Shin-Fuji), from the series One Hundred Famous Views of Edo (Meisho Edo hyakkei) 1857 (Ansei 4), 4th month Utagawa Hiroshige I Uoya Eikichi And R: Fujiyama Seen from Lake Kawaguchi, from the series Ten Views of Mt. Fuji by Yoshida Hiroshi (1926)

9 School & Teacher Programs Compare these two depictions of Mount Fuji. Looking Questions: 1. How does the artist of the work on the right, working a century later than Hiroshige, represent Mount Fuji? In other words, if Mount Fuji were a character, what qualities would it possess? What in the image makes you think so? 2. Describe the colors each artist uses. How do the colors affect the mood of the individual prints? Are they the same, or different? Why? Slide 11: Commemoration of the Aviation Display of Showa Second Year 1927, Artist Unknown, Japanese Association of Imperial Flight

10 This postcard commemorates an Aviation Display from Looking Question: Why would the artist have chosen to include Mount Fuji in the image? What does the mountain s presence say about the airplanes? Recall what you have learned regarding the spiritual nature of mountains, and Mount Fuji in particular. Do you think airplanes can be used for access to both physical and spiritual heights?

11 East Asian Art

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