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Mountain Market, Clear with Rising Mist

Xia Gui (Chinese, active ca. 1195–1230)

Period:
Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279)
Date:
early 13th century
Culture:
China
Medium:
Album leaf; ink on silk
Dimensions:
9 3/4 x 8 3/8 in. (24.8 x 21.3 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1913
Accession Number:
13.100.102
  • Description

    This album leaf presents a poetic evocation of one of the Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers. The Eight Views became a popular subject for painters beginning in the late eleventh century after the Chan (Japanese: Zen) Buddhist monk Huihong (1071–1128) composed eight poems on these themes. His poem "Mountain Market, Clear with Rising Mist" offers vivid images for painters to interpret:

    Last night's rain is letting up, mountain air is heavy,
    Steam rising, sun and shadow, shifting light
    amid trees;
    The silkworm market comes to a close, the crowd
    thins out,
    Roadside willows by the market bridge: golden
    threads play;
    Whose house with flower-filled plot is across
    the valley?
    A smooth-tongued yellow bird calls in spring breeze;
    Wine flag in hazy distance-look and you can see:
    It's the one west of the road to Zhe Tree Reidge
    Valley.

    (Alfreda Murck, trans., in Images of the Mind
    [Princeton: The Art Museum, Princeton
    University, 1984], p. 226)

    In Xia Gui's interpretation, boldly executed brushstrokes and ink dots create an abstract language of visual signs rather than merely descriptive forms: the kinesthetic brushstrokes, which change effortlessly from outlines and foliage dots to wedge-shaped modeling strokes and ink wash, at once simplify and unify the landscape and human forms, breathing life into the moisture-drenched landscape. It was this brilliantly simplified idiom of ink wash and ax-cut brush that infused gesture with meaning, preparing the way for the expressive calligraphic revolution of the ensuing Yuan dynasty.

  • See also
    Who
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
36005:1

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