Fine Arts | Mountains & Rivers: The Meanings of Nature in Chinese Art
E103 | 3281 | Nelson


This is a COAS course.

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.

	“Mountains and Rivers” explores some of the ways in which—in
painting, poetry, garden design, and other arts—the Chinese have
represented landscape and nature to make statements about the world
and the human experience. Along the way, it offers an overview of
important aspects of traditional Chinese thought and culture.

	The course is organized into several units, progressing from
early times to the eighteenth century. Assigned readings are
assembled in a coursepack; images of works of art discussed in class
are accessible on the web. There are three tests and three written
projects.