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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Asian Painting: Exploring Mountains in East Asian Art

  • Clear weather in the valley

    Slide Notes

    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 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!]

    Details

    Clear weather in the valley

    13th–14th century

    Dong Yuan, Chinese, died 962

    Dimensions

    37.5 x 150.8 cm (14 3/4 x 59 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Ink and color on paper

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    12.903

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Bare willows and distant mountains

    Slide Notes

    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 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?

    Details

    Bare willows and distant mountains

    end of 12th century

    Ma Yuan, Chinese, 1190–1235

    Dimensions

    23.8 x 24.2 cm (9 3/8 x 9 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Ink and color on silk

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    14.61

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Winter landscape with temples and...

    Slide Notes

    Confucianism

    The Confucian concept of jen corresponds to the Daoist qi: it is a vital energy flowing through the natural world. Nature is also seen as an teacher: the ethical values of Confucianism are paralleled 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. In addition, mountains are Nature’s equivalent of the wise man: people must literally look up at a mountain in the same way they should look up to and respect the wise.
    This hanging scroll is attributed to Fan Kuan, an artist who left society to live among the mountains and drew inspiration directly from nature, which he believed was a more valuable instructor than learning from previous artists would be.

    Looking Questions

    1. Can you find any people in this painting? Where? How do they look in comparison to the mountain?
    2. Does the mountain look solid and stable to you? Why or why not? Consider visual elements such as shading and composition (e.g. how much of the image does the mountain take up? Does it lean at all, or does it go straight up?)

    Details

    Winter landscape with temples and travelers

    11th century

    Fan Kuan, Chinese, active late 10th–early 11th century

    Dimensions

    Image: 182.4 x 103 cm (71 13/16 x 40 9/16 in.) Overall: 319 x 135 cm (125 9/16 x 53 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Ink and color on silk

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    14.52

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Mt. Hua

    Slide Notes

    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:
    http://www.outdoorsmagic.com/outdoors-news/houlding-summits-sacred-mount...

    Details

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Jade in the shape of mountains

    Slide Notes

    This piece of jade has been carved into a mountain shape and would have been owned by a scholar.
    Why would a scholar want to own this kind of object? Do you have anything on your desk that inspires you or reminds you of your duty?

    Details

    Jade in the shape of mountains

    Dimensions

    7.62 x 13.97 x 7.62 cm (3 x 5 1/2 x 3 in.)

    Medium

    Jade with wooden stand

    Classification

    Scholar's objects

    Accession Number

    2001.225

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Landscape

    Slide Notes

    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?

    Details

    Landscape

    15th century

    Dimensions

    30.5 x 51.8 cm (12 x 20 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Ink on silk

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    11.6174

    Collections
    Asia
    On View
    Korea-USA Cent Prog Cmt Gallery (Korean Art) - 179 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • New Fuji, Meguro (Meguro Shin-Fuji...

    Slide Notes

    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 kamiPrincess 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?

    Details

    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, Japanese, 1797–1858

    Dimensions

    Vertical ôban; 33.5 x 22 cm (13 3/16 x 8 2/3 in.)

    Medium

    Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    11.16745

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    No. 024 (spring section) on the title page for the series. MFA impressions: 11.16745, 11.36876.17, 21.9452

    Multimedia

  • Untitled

    Slide Notes

    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?

    Details

    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, Japanese, 1797–1858

    Dimensions

    Vertical ôban; 33.5 x 22 cm (13 3/16 x 8 2/3 in.)

    Medium

    Woodblock print (nishiki-e); ink and color on paper

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    11.16745

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Fuji from Kawaguchi Lake (Kawaguchi-ko), from the series Ten Views of Mount Fuji (Fuji jukkei)

    1926 (Taishô 15/Shôwa 1)

    Yoshida Hiroshi, Japanese, 1876–1950

    Dimensions

    Horizontal double ôban; 36.2 x 50.9cm (14 1/4 x 20 1/16in.)

    Medium

    Woodblock print; ink and color on paper

    Classification

    Prints

    Accession Number

    35.1873

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    No. 024 (spring section) on the title page for the series. MFA impressions: 11.16745, 11.36876.17, 21.9452


    Printed by the artist (jizuri).

    Multimedia

  • Commemoration of the Aviation...

    Slide Notes

    This postcard commemorates an Aviation Display from 1927.

    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?

    Details

    Commemoration of the Aviation Display of Showa Second Year

    1927

    Artist Unknown, Japanese

    Dimensions

    Overall: 8.8 x 13.8 cm (3 7/16 x 5 7/16 in.)

    Medium

    Color lithograph; ink on card stock

    Classification

    Postcards

    Accession Number

    2002.5613

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Winter landscape with temples and...

    Slide Notes

    Welcome to the Online Gallery "Ascending the Peaks: Exploring Mountains in East Asian Art."

    Details

    Winter landscape with temples and travelers

    11th century

    Fan Kuan, Chinese, active late 10th–early 11th century

    Dimensions

    Image: 182.4 x 103 cm (71 13/16 x 40 9/16 in.) Overall: 319 x 135 cm (125 9/16 x 53 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Ink and color on silk

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    14.52

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • CHINA

  • Confucianism

    Slide Notes

    Confucianism

    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 (960-1279). 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.

    Looking Questions:

    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?

    Details

    Jade in the shape of mountains

    Dimensions

    7.62 x 13.97 x 7.62 cm (3 x 5 1/2 x 3 in.)

    Medium

    Jade with wooden stand

    Classification

    Scholar's objects

    Accession Number

    2001.225

    Collections
    Asia More Info

    Scholar's Rock: "Family in Grotto"

    Late 19th to early 20th century

    Dimensions

    147.32 x 81.28 x 43.18 cm (58 x 32 x 17 in.)

    Medium

    Natural rock form with added shaping, and wood stand

    Classification

    Scholar's objects

    Accession Number

    1997.218

    Collections
    Asia
    On View
    285A More Info

    Description


    Multimedia

  • KOREA

  • JAPAN