The Jing Hao (荊浩) Forum, founded by the Art Discovery Institute, is an online academic journal focusing on the introduction and study of Chinese mountain-and-river (shan shui) paintings from the Tang Dynasty through the Southern Song Dynasty, approximately early 7th through 13th century.
Premodern Chinese mountain-and-river painting has a long history, with origins possibly traceable to the period of pictographs (xiangxing wenzi). (“Mountain-and-river” is commonly translated as “landscape,” but it is rather different from Western landscape paintings in concept, culture, philosophy, and methodologies.) However, the earliest documented works were only from the Jin and the Northern and Southern Dynasties (265-589). Even surviving examples from the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907) are very few. Although thousands of Ming and Qing-era (1368-1911) paintings survived, ones with innovative thinking seem few and far between since the Ming. This journal will be dedicated to the exploration, research, and discovery of mountain-and-river paintings and their painters, and the history of this genre. As Jing Hao (circa mid-9th to early 10th century) was undoubtedly one of the most important founding figures of mountain-and-river paintings, this journal will be named after him.
The mountains-and-rivers of the late Tang and Song Dynasties (early 10th to late 13th century) achieved the genre’s zenith. However, as far as art history is concerned, the paintings of this period are also most problematic and controversial, with research grounded more on speculation than in-depth engagement with primary sources. This journal hopes to bring together high quality essays by scholars from across disciplines, as well as open the floor to all who are interested in Chinese art history and mountain-and-river paintings.
Although the late Tang and Five Dynasties constituted a war-stricken and relatively short period, it gave rise to a number of mountain-and-river grandmasters. This was a period that saw a concentration of art geniuses, who surpassed their predecessors of the Tang Golden Age. In the world history of painting, a similar period would not take place until five centuries later, during the European Renaissance. During the Five Dynasties (907-960), the grandmasters inherited and improved upon the ink painting style of Wang Wei, employing ink to express people’s understanding of nature, and began making colossal-sized works. They moved away from the methodology of painting that had relied heavily on “blue-green” (qing lü), which was used as sole style until the late Tang and could be traced back to the Jin period (265-420). Mountain-and-river paintings matured during the Five Dynasties and reached its zenith during the Northern Song (960-1127), thanks to the modification of ink color, varieties of stroke, and closer connection with cosmology. The artists advocated painting real mountains and real rivers. They also strived to remedy the flaw of “having a brush but no ink, or having ink but no brush”, i.e., either having good outlines but lacking in content, or having rich contents but falling short on outlines. In sum, the art of mountain-and-river had reached a level where it could express the joining of nature and philosophy via methodologies that were realistic yet abstract at the same time.
Jing Hao was a founding figure of the northern school of painting whose achievements in mountain-and-river was the highest, and whose theories were original, profound, and applicable. His A Note on the Art of the Brush (Bi Fa Ji) is the most experience-based, analytically in-depth, and influential work on the theory of painting. The problem we now have, is that all of Jing Hao’s extant works are disputed, although some doubts raised are not backed by evidence, some even based purely on speculation. Certain “authoritative” (quanwei) experts, who have never personally viewed the paintings attributed to Jing Hao, nor closely analyzed the relevant primary-source materials, have drawn the conclusion that “works not recorded in the historical catalogs cannot be Jing Hao’s.” Such a premise is unsound, and it would exclude what are already rare and scattered works from receiving attention.
Jing Hao’s achievements in painting and theory were succeeded and surpassed by his disciple Guan Tong and his follower-in-style Li Cheng. Another of Jing Hao’s follower, Fan Kuan, further pushed northern mountain-and-river to its height by “forming ideas from the internalization of what is learned from creation” (wai shi zaohua zhong de xin yuan), and no one could reach that level after Fan Kuan for a thousand years. The famous Five Dynasties painter Guo Zhongshu also came out of Guan Tong’s tutelage; the Northern Song artist Guo Xi was Li Cheng’s student, and Li Cheng in turn influenced the styles of individuals such as Xu Daoning, Li Zongcheng, Zhai Yuanshen, Wang Shen, Gao Keming. Thus was the important place of Jing Hao in art history, and the trails blazed by his works and theories.
Jing Hao Forum will also be interested in discussing and studying all other styles of mountain-and-river paintings, such as blue-green (qing lü) represented by Zhang Sengyou, Li Sixun, Li Zhaodao, Zhao Lingrang, Zhao Boju..., as well as other types of Chinese paintings, figures, flowers and birds...