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Being in traditional Chinese landscape painting
Journal of Intercultural Studies
  • Suk Mun, Sophia LAW, Department of Visual Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong
Document Type
Journal article
Publication Date
  • Baroque,
  • Being,
  • Conceptual Experience,
  • Heidegger,
  • Landscape Painting,
  • Shanshui,
  • Socio-cultural Visuality,
  • Visual Experience

Visuality is very much a socio-cultural process. Comparing a Baroque landscape painting to a traditional Chinese landscape, one can clearly see that Baroque and ancient Chinese landscape painters perceived nature in two very distinct ways. This paper will first explore the historically and culturally specific nature of the visuality found in the ancient Chinese landscape tradition. It will go on to argue that the meaning of the ancient Chinese painters’ visualisation of nature points to a kind of being in nature which in some respects echoes Heidegger's philosophy of being. Traditional Chinese landscape painting is better known as shanshui (literally meaning mountain and water), the earliest reference to which can be traced back to the fourth century. This paper explores the perspective of ancient Chinese thoughts on nature and the emergence of shanshui as a painting tradition, and its close relationship to classical Chinese philosophy, especially Daoism. It will illustrate that shanshui reveals an experience of the conceptual rather than the visual. The theme of shanshui is thus more about being rather than seeing.

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Citation Information
Law, S. M. S. (2011). Being in traditional Chinese landscape painting. The Journal of Intercultural Studies, 32(4), 369-382. doi: 10.1080/07256868.2011.584615