The Discipline of Chinese Painting: An Internal Reflection of Life & Art

The Discipline of Chinese Painting: An Internal Reflection of Life & Art

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When one comes into contact with a Chinese painting, the style is almost instantly recognizable. The attention to detail, craftsmanship, and vast depictions of elaborate landscapes appear to pay homage to mother earth in an attempt to reach a state of eternal balance with nature and life. Before this equilibrium could be achieved, one must attain internal discipline. This was required before one began mastering their brushwork in Chinese culture. In Mai Mai Sze’s “The Way of Chinese Painting,” 1959, New York: Vintage Books, Random House, Sze discusses the philosophy known as Daoism/Tao, or “the way.” Before one became a skilled painter, one trained in the personal disciplines of poetry, art, calligraphy, and internal reflection/achievement. Only after reaching this internal state of tranquility between brushstrokes and idea (ie. symbolism) could one begin the next journey to achieve a state of overall harmony/balance between life and nature. Throughout the centuries the concept of Tao remained relatively constant, though political judgment such as Confucius brought forth the idea of philosophy as a separate entity between religious ideals. This was in contrast with the traditional principle, which consisted of religion as the focal point of life. The idea of balance between nature and man is abstract, encompassing thoughts of a heaven and earth interweaved through mathematics. Sze presents several viewpoints: that of the yin and yang, de, li, and “the way” (Tao). Chinese values teach a way of living and bringing ideas together. This involves deep focus from an early age, concentrating on calligraphy and discipline, which transfers over through careful precision in the execution of brushwork to represent ideas (ie. the depiction of...


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...m: “…he didn't know if he was Zhuangzi who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Zhuangzi.” (Zhuangzi, The Zhuangzi: Chapter 2 “The Butterfly Dream”, 300 BC) These are the questions that Daoism helps to better grasp, by gaining a better understanding of oneself and the world we live in.








Bibliography/Sources

Hoff, Benjamin, and Ernest H. Shepard. The Tao of Pooh. London: Methuen, 1998. Print.

Tzu, Lao. Tao Te Ching. Forgotten Books, 2008. Print.

Little, Stephen, & Shawn Eichman. Taoism and The Arts of China. Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2000. Print.

Sharot, Stephen. A Comparative Sociology of World Religions New York: NYU Press, 2001

Zhuangzi, The Zhuangzi: Chapter 2 “The Butterfly Dream”, 300 BC

"Taoism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia." Wikipedia, Web. 17 Apr. 2011.

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