Taoism and the Arts of Chinaby Stephen Little, Kristofer Shipper
Taoism and the Arts of China brings together a remarkable collection of art from one of China's most ancient and influential traditions. Produced to accompany the first major exhibition ever organized on the Taoist philosophy and religion, this opulent book includes more than 150 works of art from as early as the late Zhou dynasty (fifth-third century b.c.) to the Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Many of these works are paintings that show the breathtaking range of style and subject that makes the Taoist heritage so rich. Sculpture, calligraphy, rare books, textiles, and ritual objects are also represented.
Like the exhibition, the book is organized thematically. It begins with the sage Laozi (to whom the Daode Jing is attributed), and moves on to explore the birth of religious Taoism and the interaction between Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism. A wealth of subjects are covered: the gods of the Taoist pantheon, ritual, the boundaries and intersections between Taoism and popular religion, Taoist Immortals and Realized Beings, the role of alchemy, sacred landscape and its significance, and Taoist temples and their architecture.
Taoism and the Arts of China includes an engaging series of introductory essays by scholars with a deep understanding of their subjects. Among the topics discussed are a historical introduction to Taoism, archaeological evidence for early Taoist art, and a general introduction to the functions of art in religious Taoism. Lavishly illustrated with over 150 color images, this volume affords a sweeping view of an artistic terrain that until now has received too little exposure in the West. Its publication constitutes a major advance in Western understanding ofthis important tradition.
Author Biography: Stephen Little, Pritzker Curator of Asian Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, is an authority on Chinese and Japanese art. His numerous publications include Spirit Stones of China (California, 1999), Visions of the Dharma: Japanese Buddhist Paintings and Prints in the Honolulu Academy of Arts(1991), and Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period,1620-1683 (1983).
- University of California Press
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- 9.50(w) x 12.00(h) x 1.25(d)
Read an Excerpt
III.6 THE SACRED LANDSCAPE
One of the earliest texts of religious Taoism, the Scripture of Great Peace (Taiping Jing), teaches a profound respect for the Earth as a living body. This section of the exhibition catalogue explores the traditional Taoist concept of the natural landscape as sacred and reflecting the inherently divine structure of both the cosmos and the inner human body (i.e., macrocosm and microcosm). The divine correspondence between the outer terrestrial and Inner landscape of the human body is a fundamental aspect of Taoist techniques of visualizaton and inner Alchemy, and can be seen in such works as the Illustration of Inner Circulation (Neijing tu; cat. no. 133), a diagram that originated in the Six Dynasties period (420-589).
This concept of the Earth as a sacred body is often given visual expression in Chinese paintings. The earliest Chinese texts that discuss the theory and practice of landscape painting, for example, emphasize the importance of the artist capturing and conveying the dynamic movement of vital energy (qi) that defines and animates the dynamic forms of the earth. The concept of the Earth as sacred is explored here on several levels. First is the concept of the sacred mountain. Mountains are revered throughout Taoist history as places where adepts meditate, pursue alchemy, and encounter immortals and gods. In mountains can be found numinous cavern-heavens (dongtian), mysterious grottoes that are actually gateways to the spirit world. A direct extension of this concept of sacred space is the frequent siting of Taoist temples on or near mountains.
Examples of these concepts of sacred space as illustrated in Chinese painting include Juran's Seeking the Tao in the Autumn Mountains (cat. no. 138), Ni Zan's The Crane Grove (depicting an outdoor Taoist stone altar; cat. no. 139), Dai Jin's Seeking the Tao in a Cavern-Heaven (cat. no. 148), Wen Zhengming's The Seven Junipers (a painting of seven trees that are living symbols of the seven stars of the Northern Dipper; cat. no. 147), and a large topographical painting by Guan Huai, a Qing court artist, depicting the Zhengyi (Orthodox Unity) sect temple complex at Dragon and Tiger Mountain (Longhu Shan) in Jiangxi province (cat. no. 151)
Meet the Author
Stephen Little, Pritzker Curator of Asian Art at the Art
Institute of Chicago, is an authority on Chinese and Japanese art. His numerous publications include Spirit Stones of China (California, 1999), Visions of the Dharma: Japanese Buddhist Paintings and Prints in the Honolulu Academy of Arts(1991), and Chinese Ceramics of the Transitional Period,1620-1683 (1983).
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