China: Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)

Forward to China Ming Dynasty 1368-1644
Back to 1.3.8 Asian Art Index

Cobalt blue vase
Belt slide, falcon and goose
Textile with Animals, Birds and Flowers
Forest Grotto in Juqu

Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains
Still Streams and Winter Pines
Secluded Dwelling in the Qingbian Mountains

Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368):

During the Yuan dynasty, China was completely subjugated by its Mongal Empire foreign conquerors and operated as part of a larger political entity. However, Chinese culture not only survived but was reinvigorated. It was a time of important developments in the areas of painting, calligraphy, poetry, and theatre, with a number of their artists operating in more than one medium. Landscape painting was significant during the Dynasty, its painters practised with relative freedom, an innovative approach to art that deviated from the more superficial style of the Song masters who had preceded them.

The Mongols were inexperienced with large-scale administration and almost inevitably adopted the Chinese approaches, The Mongols had their capital at Dadu (aka Khanbaliq, today’s Beijing). Mongol Khans assumed the role of Chinese emperors. However, in the 1340s -1350s, cohesion disintegrated reflecting the lack of a unified court, the combination of natural disasters and debilitating corruption,prompted rebellions and dynastic collapse.


This Yuan Vase, dated to 1320- 1350, is on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA. It is 29 x 13 x 7 cms, is fabricated in porcelain and painted with cobalt blue under a transparent glaze.
Image source: metmuseum.org

Image source: metmuseum.org

This carved jade belt slide shows a small falcon hunting a wild goose amid lotus flowers. The motif symbolizes the spring hunting of the Jurchens, a seminomadic people who lived beyond China’s Great Wall in the northeast. Known as chunshui (spring water) in historical texts, the hunt was an important ritual that the Jurchens practiced year after year, and Manchu royalty continued it during the Qing dynasty (source: metmuseum.org).
This 38 x 37 cms square of Yuan embroidered textile has placed a spotted horse, a rabbit and two deer at the cardinal points, an approach first used in the Han period. They are surrounded by flowers (lotus blossom, lotus leafs and a trefoil leaf) and birds (including a parrot). It is on show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY USA.

Image source: metmuseum.org

Image source: courses.lumenlearning.com

Forest Grotto in Juqu by Wang Meng is dated to 1378. The great masters of the Yuan Dynasty exclusively painted landscapes, which they believed to be the visible key to the invisible reality.
Detail from Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains by Huang Gongwang is dated to c1350.
Huang Gongwang is regarded as one of the great literati painters of his era, he rejected the landscape conventions of his Academy.

Image source: courses.lumenlearning.com

Image source: depts.washington.edu

Still Streams and Winter Pines by Ni Zan 倪瓚, he stripped down his technique to just the essential brushstrokes.  His poem states that the painting is a present for a friend leaving to take up an official post, and to remind him of the joys of peaceful retirement.  

It is a 60 x 50 cm hanging scroll, ink on paper. It is on show at the National Palace Museum, Beijing.
Secluded Dwelling in the Qingbian Mountains, in Fu Xinian, is by Wang Meng, dated to 1366 (the end of the Yuan was 1368). This painting depicts the villa of a relative of the painter.

Wang Meng’s brushwork is different from Ni Zan’s, using many different types of strokes, packed close together to give a sense of nervous energy.

It is an ink on paper hanging scroll, 141 x 42 cms and is on show at the Shanghai Museum.

Image source: depts.washington.edu

Forward to China Ming Dynasty 1368-1644
Back to 1.3.8 Asian Art Index

Leave a Reply

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