Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains

When talking about traditional Chinese landscape paintings, it's almost impossible not to mention Fuchun Shan Ju Tu, or Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains.

When talking about traditional Chinese landscape paintings, it’s almost impossible not to mention Fuchun Shan Ju Tu, or Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains, which was painted nearly 700 years ago by Huang Gongwang (1269-1354), a highly acclaimed painter of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368).

For centuries, many Chinese artists and art historians have praised this artwork as the epitome of traditional landscape painting. Today, it is often mentioned as one of the ten top masterpieces of China’s art history.

Huang Gongwang was born in Changshu in today’s Jiangsu Province in east China. His parents passed away when Huang was still a young boy and moved to neighboring Zhejiang Province with his adoptive father, a family relative.

Two years later, he sat for a “prodigy examination” in the local county and displayed his exceptional talent in acquiring a wide range of knowledge.

At one point, Huang served as a minor official in Zhejiang Province, but he was later accused of corruption and put behind bars. After five years in prison, he was released, but had became so disillusioned that he joined the Quanzhen School of Taoism and became a reclusive Taoist.

Some art historians believe that Huang begun his career as a painter at the age of 31, while others say he did not start painting until he was in his 50s. All, however, seem to agree that the latter was the age when Huang specialized in landscape painting.

According to some popular folk stories, Huang and his Taoist friend Master Wuyong once went to visit the Fuchun River to the west of Hangzhou, now the capital of Zhejiang Province. Huang was immediately drawn to the beautiful landscape and decided to settle down near the river to paint a panorama of the landscape for his friend.

At the time, Huang was 79, and didn’t finish the handscroll for another three years.

Though having once followed the model and techniques of great painters such as Dong Yuan and Ju Ran of the Five Dynasties (AD 907-979), Huang was himself an innovative landscape painter who created his own style.

Huang’s style had not only altered the course of evolvement of landscape painting in the country, but also greatly influenced Chinese landscapists throughout the following centuries.

If you are reading on a mobile gadget, turn horizontal and enjoy the painting.

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“Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains” was torn in two parts when its owner tried to burn it before his death. Today, the first short part (below), also known as the “Remaining Mountain,” is in the collection of the Zhejiang Provincial Museum and the second part (above), called “Master Wuyong’s Scroll” is housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

The Dwelling painting is indisputably Huang’s greatest work. Viewing from right to left, it presents the painter’s idealized image of the landscape along the Fuchun River, with scenes changing from mountains and hills to the river and marsh and then to mountains and peaks again. The composition generates an elegant aesthetic effect.

The painter first used light and wet ink and then applied several layers of darker and drier ink to produce rich textures of rocks, soil and trees. Half hidden among the streams, valleys and woods are farm houses and other buildings. Impulsive brush dots are also scattered across the painting.

After its completion, the masterpiece soon became the paradigm for many following generations of the so-called scholar-official painters in China.

The painting changed owners multiple times and ended up in the hands of Wu Honyu who, on his deathbed in 1650, decided to burn it so he could still savor it in the afterlife. When Wu’s nephew saw this, he rushed to put out the fire, but the painting had already been torn in two parts.

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Tiny holes burnt by fire sparks can be seen on the first part.

The first short part, later also known as the “Remaining Mountain,” is now in the collection of the Zhejiang Provincial Museum while the second part, called the “Master Wuyong’s Scroll” is housed in the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

On June 1, 2011, these two parts of the masterpiece landscape were reunited for the first time in 360 years when they were displayed together at an exhibition in the Taipei museum.

富春山居图 (Fùchūn Shān Jū Tú)

Artist: Huang Gongwang (1269-1354)

Year: Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)

Type: Ink on paper

Dimensions: first part 31.8cm × 51.4 cm secon  part 33cm*636.9cm

Location: Zhejiang Provincial Museum and National Palace Museum in Taipei

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