Man and nature – pervasive pattern

Mountains, rocks and moral patterns

As dominant features in the landscape, mountains have long impressed the imagination of Chinese. The geological logic of mountains was seen as the determining basis of a complex local ecology of plants, animals and water.

As painting evolved, mountains provided a subject of appealing monumentality that also offered a means to grapple with pictorial complexity. The geological framework – seen in a visual gestalt of lines of force and progression of masses - provided a superstructure for managing subordinate elements such as trees, water and building. In addition, the sheer scale of space that could be shown provided an ample arena for narratives to be expressed – notably the vision of a 'journey' indicated by a pathway that threaded through the landscape and which might be adorned with human and other elements of interest.
Pathway at Wuyi Shan


Two paths approaching a garden

Huan Cui Tang garden scroll
c. 1600