China: Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Forward to China Qing Dynasty 1644-1911
Back to China Yuan Dynasty 1271-1368

Dragon Pine
Painting of birds
Lofty Mount Lu
Ryōan-ji Zen garden
Bird Pedlar
Large Bronze Buddhist statue

Wen Zhengming artwork
Clearing after snow on a Mountain Pass
A Fisher in Autumn
Emperor Guangwu Fording a River
Leaf album

Ming Dynasty (1368-1644):

Following on from the achievements in painting during the Song and Yuan dynasties, the Ming dynasty progressed things further. A broader range of colours were used.

The Ming dynasty, as indigenous Chinese, directed that the arts should return to realistic representation, as defined by the earlier Southern Song Imperial Painting Academy. This popularised large-scale landscapes, flower-and-bird compositions, and figure-based narratives to suggest the new dynasty was benevolent and virtuous. It then encouraged the development of new painting skills and techniques, and the advancement of calligraphy within paintings.

The Wu School painters Tang Yin, Wen Zhengming, Shen Zhou, and Qiu Ying were regarded as the ‘Four Masters’ of the Ming period.

The Forbidden City became the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty. For almost 500 years it was the home for emperors and their households, and the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government.


Image source: metmuseum.org

Dragon Pine by Wu Boli (a Daoist priest), was painted in the late 14th/early 15th c for Zhang Yuchu, the forty-third Daoist ‘pope’ of the Orthodox Unity sect. It bears his appreciative colophon.

During the Ming, and before, the pine signified ‘the moral character of the virtuous man’, and Wu Boli is thought to have seen his pine as representing the Daoist sage or ‘perfected being’.

According to Daoist geomantic beliefs, vital energies collect at the base of a mountain slope along the edge of a stream-precisely the location of the pine in Wu Boli’s painting. [metmueum.org]
A painting of birds by Bian Wenchi. It is on show at the National Palace Museum, Beijing. Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: courses.lumenlearning.com

Lofty Mount Lu is a hanging scroll, in ink and light colours, on paper. It is by Shen Zhou 沈周 and dated to 1467.

Shen Zhou before the age of 40 painted small scenes. thereafter he switched to painting larger works. He was 40 when he painted this large landscape.

While painting in the Ming period Shen Zhou paintings, while under 40, are said to apply the styles of the Yuan Dynasty and Wang Meng. After 40 he followed the styles of Huang Gongwang and Wu Zhen.

He is also noted for respecting China’s history while observing his orthodox Confucianism.
Ryōan-ji (The Temple of the Dragon at Peace) is a Zen temple in north-west Kyoto, Japan. It belongs to the Myōshin-ji school of the Rinzai branch of Zen Buddhism.

The Ryōan-ji garden is considered one of the finest surviving examples of kare-sansui (dry landscape), a refined type of Japanese Zen temple garden design generally featuring distinctive larger rock formations arranged amidst a sweep of smooth carefully selected river pebblesand raked into linear patterns that facilitate meditation. It is listed as one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto, and as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

This late 15th/early 16th c hanging scroll is entitled the Bird Pedlar. It is ink and colour on silk 161 x 98 cms and is on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA.
This Ming gilt bronze statue is of a Buddhist divinity, perhaps Amitâbha. It shows the divinity seated in conventional cross-legged attitude upon a lotus pedestal, also of bronze. The Buddha wears the crown with five jewelled peaks, each peak containing a small Buddha. The position of his hands tells us that he is in the act of expounding the sacred truths.
Image source: penn.museum

Image source: courses.lumenlearning.com

This artwork is by the leading Ming Dynasty painter, Wen Zhengming. He often chose painting subjects of great simplicity, like a single tree or rock. His work often brings about a feeling of strength through isolation, which is said to reflect his discontent with official life.
Clearing after Snow on a Mountain Pass is a 70 x 37 cm hanging scroll artwork by Tang Yin, a Ming artist and poet. It is on show at the National Palace Museum, Beijing.

Tang Yin is also known for eccentricities. Spotting a slave girl in a high official’s boat, he arranged to be sold in to slavery to be able to approach her. Fortuitously he managed to extricate them from serfdom.

The tale prompted the play Three Words by Feng Menglong (Ming historianm novelist and poet), and loosely applied to a 1969 Hong Kong film, The Three Smiles.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

A Fisher in Autumn, by Tang Yin.
It is dated to 1523, ink and colours on silk, 29 x 35 cms, and is on show at the National Palace Museum, Beijing.
The Emperor Guangwu Fording a River by Qiu Yung. He specialised in the gongbi (realist) brush technique. He had a natural talent, but had formal training from the famous artist Zhou Chen.

It is dated to 1534-1542, a hanging scroll in ink and colors on silk (171 × 66 cms) and is on show at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Image from an album of miscellaneous paintings by Chen Hongshou 章侯. This shows flowers, a butterfly, and a twisted rock sculpture. It is dated to early-mid 17th c.

Forward to China Qing Dynasty 1644-1911
Back to China Yuan Dynasty 1271-1368

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *