Monday, June 05, 2006

Eight Views of the Hsiao and Hsiang Rivers

Muqi Fachang, A fishing village at sunset, c. 1250
Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the eleventh century Sung Ti painted Eight Views of the Hsiao and Hsiang Rivers. His example inspired many subsequent Chinese painters to depict the same views (one example is given above):
  1. Clear-weather mists above a mountain market-village
  2. A fishing village at sunset
  3. A sailboat returning to a distant inlet
  4. The confluence of the Hsiao and Hsiang rivers in the rain
  5. A temple bell in the evening mist
  6. The autumn moon over Tung-t’ing Lake
  7. Geese descending to a sandbar
  8. Snow falling on a river at dusk.
As Hiroyuki Suzuki has pointed out in his essay ‘The Garden of Shisendo’, in Japan a similar set of eight views was eventually established which closely parallels the original of Sung Ti - The Eight Views of Omi:
  1. The town of Awazu on a clear and windy day
  2. The village of Seta at sunset
  3. A sailboat returning off the shore of Yabashi
  4. Karasaki in the night rain
  5. The evening bell at Mii temple near Biwa
  6. The autumn moon over Ishiyama temple near Lake Biwa
  7. Geese landing near Katada
  8. Snow falling at dusk from Mount Hira, overlooking Lake Biwa.
Japanese artists took to the idea of ‘Eight Views’ and established similar lists for other landscapes at Kyoto, Nara, Fukagawa and elsewhere. And, as Suzuki notes, ‘during the Edo period it was fashionable to select eight views inside the gardens of feudal lords. For instance, there were eight views in the Rikugien garden at Komogome and of the Yuin’en garden in Ichigaya, both in Edo’. In the twentieth century official lists of the best eight views were still being drawn up, and Dazai Osamu referred to the tradition in the title of his novel Eight Views in Tokyo.
Neither of the lists of eight views here relate purely to location. The descent of geese and the falling snow relate to specific moments in time. Temporary effects of weather, season or time of day bring out the poetic qualities of the landscapes.

Note that in modern pinyin, Sung Ti is Song Di, and the rivers are Xiao and Xiang. An example of an early Chinese painting in the tradition is the scene of a returning sailboat by Mu Xi in Kyoto National Museum. There is a Korean version of the Xiao and Xiang scenes by Kim Tuk-sin in the National Museum of Asian Art-Guimet. In Japan, Ando Hiroshige made three versions of the Eight Views of Omi, which can be seen at the Woodblock Prints of Ando Hiroshige site.

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