Rivers are the arteries of the landscape, wrote an eleventh-century Chinese painter; rocks are its bones, foliage its hair, mists and atmosphere its mood and character. A tall pine is like a virtuous prince, a great mountain like a host among guests. Spring hills smile flirtatiously; winter hills seem melancholy and drowsy. There's more, but you see the point: to this painter and to many others throughout Chinese history, landscape is full of character, meaning, and expression--a living thing. As Western art has focused on the human face and figure, Chinese artists have been preoccupied with mountains and valleys, streams and waterfalls, trees, flowers and bamboo. And in their paintings of these subjects we can read ideas about the workings of the cosmic system, about the nation and national culture, about society and community, and about the individual.
This course explores various ways in which the Chinese have portrayed landscape and nature for purposes of expressing ideas about the world and the human experience. Poetry, garden design, and other arts will be considered as well as paintings; the course offers an overview of basic aspects of Chinese thought and culture. Readings are assembled in a course reader, and images of all the important works of art considered in the class are accessible on the web. There are five quizzes and three written projects.