STRUMMING THE QIN IN THE SHADE OF THE PINES (DETAIL), WEN ZHENGMING, 1470-1559. Hanging scroll; ink on paper; 351 x 105.3 cm. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York – TAASA Review June 2023


This article was originally found in the June 2023 edition of TAASA Review (Volume 32, Issue 2, Page 6).

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6 natural landscape is sacred, surging with the movement of vital energy (qi) that defines and animates the dynamic forms of the earth, and transforms solid matter into qi and viceversa.

Daoism regards restless change as the fundamental nature of reality as illustrated in the Book of Changes (Yi Jing) by 64 hexagrams representing the fluctuations between yang and yin, in nature symbolised by the pine tree and water respectively (Little 2000: 357-371). The literati embraced the teachings of Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi (4th century BCE) whose advice was to abandon presuppositions, intellectual debates and ambitions, and listen to the ‘music of nature’ to fully experience the Dao.

Zhuangzi’s classic compilation Zhuangzi has been adapted and illustrated for contemporary readers by popular Taiwanese cartoonist Tsai Chic Chung under the title Zhuangzi Speaks: The Music of Nature (1992 Princeton University Press). The most notable aural reference in Chinese landscape painting is the sound of the wind, conveyed through images of swaying pine trees and rustling leaves, a metaphor for qi...