In traditional Chinese paintings, mountains symbolize strength, stability, and perseverance. Huang Binhong, a famous landscape painter, lived through China’s turbulent times. Deeply influenced by traditional landscape painting and Western Impressionism, Huang developed a unique style that captures the spirit of mountains with dark shading contrasted with the void. In Landscape, Huang paints a mountain cuddling a river and trees, and dedicates it to an old friend, Cangsou. Apart from the spatial monumentality, Huang suggests the inclusive and nurturing nature of the mountain. Through this, he praises Cangsou for reaching such spiritual elevation.
Du Fu’s poem Gazing at the Mountain, written after failing the imperial examination, praises Mount Tai’s sheer size. With a peak well above the clouds and surrounding mountains, Mount Tai is an inspiration and a goal for Du Fu. He hopes to be like Mount Tai one day, being the tallest peak, where with “one glance all other mountains dwindle.” Through this poem, Du Fu shows his lofty scholarly ambitions.
Both the poem and the painting use mountains to represent spiritual or social height in life. At the same time, they both show an infatuation for nature.
Poem selection and label by Lucy Liang ’17