Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wooded Mountains at Dusk

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Wooded Mountains at Dusk, 1693 (Qing Dynasty)
Kuncan (1612-1673)

Chinese landscape painting, more than any of the visual arts, captures the way mountains make me feel. I don't know what it is - I know that art historians will point out the small figure in the foreground, the way that the landscape is both beautiful and inhabited. But perhaps this poem by the artist Kuncan explains why his work resonates with me:

I want to go further,
But my legs are bruised and scratched.
The bony rocks appear chiseled,
The pines look as if they had been dyed.
Sitting down, I feel like a small bird,
As I look out at the crowd of peaks gathered before me.
Having ascended the heights to the brink of the abyss,
I hold fast and ponder the need to sincerely face criticism.
Wherever a road ends, I will set myself down,
Wherever a source opens, I will build a temple.
All this suffices to nourish my eyes,
And rest my feet.

I've felt like that while doing field work, from the scratched legs to the need to sincerely face criticism.

Accretionary Wedge #10: Aesthetic Geology


The Ridger, FCD said...

Oooo. Lovely. Thanks for sharing!

Silver Fox said...

Kim, I think the combination of the painting and poem evoke a real inspiring and calming effect at the same time. And the poem reminds me of some of Edward Abbey's writing about the desert.

coconino said...

Kim, I grew up in the far east when Nixon visited China. Prior to two of the envoys giving a slide show to my elementary school, I had assumed that the Chinese art in all the museums I had seen depicting mountains such as these was an abstraction and clearly not like any mountains I had ever seen. I was sure that no mountains looked like that. When the envoys gave the slide show with pictures of China's southwestern karst terrain, my ten-year-old mind was truly blown away. Thanks for the reminder of my childhood awe.

Anonymous said...

I like mountains with a long record of human habitation and creature comforts. Historians' mountains.

Like the Italian Alps I visited a month ago. This little one had a nice medieval village on top with a restaurant. Not to mention the stone town at the base (surmounted by the castle seen in the photo).¤t=JoCastelloVisconteo.jpg

Some ruins with altitude:¤t=JoPanoramico2.jpg

Anonymous said...

The links didn't paste properly on the last post. Oh well. The "Main Street, Vogogna" gives a nice sense of the area.