A scholar pauses at the juncture of paved paths oriented at right-angles, the one to his left leading to steps and a platform beyond. In contrast to the calm, even meditative image of the figure, his surroundings provide a riot of textures in the various foliages of the surrounding mimosa and other trees, a juxtaposition that emphasizes his reserved demeanor.
Such great emphasis on the textures of tree foliage can be found in other paintings of the 12th century, such as one leaf from the “Mao-shih” of Ma Ho-chih (d. ca. 1190) (fig. 1), another by the same artist from the “Odes of Chou” (fig. 2), “Summer Mist along Lake” 1100 (fig. 3) by Chao Ling-jang (active ca.1170-1100), and even the “Sakyamuni beneath Blossoming Trees” (fig. 4) attributed to Ch’en Yung-chih (active early 11th century). It can also be noted that the compositions of paintings of this period are more filled and less spacious than they would become by the 13th century and the end of the Southern Sung era when pictorial space itself became an active element of compositions.
Fig. 1. Ma Ho-chih: “Mao-shih,” detail after Museum of Fine Arts Boston, New York, 1969, pl. 99.
Fig. 2. Ma Ho-chih: “Odes of Chou,” detail, after Chung- kuo Ku-tai Shu-hua T’u-mu, , Beijing, 1997, vol. 15, p. 35, no. 1-033-5.
Fig. 3. Chao Ling-jang: “Summer Mist along Lake,” detail, 1100, after Museum of Fine Arts Boston, , New York, 1969, pl. 96.
Fig. 4. Ch’en Yung-chih, att.: “Sakyamuni beneath Blossoming Trees,” after Museum of Fine Arts Boston, , New York, 1969, pl. 73.