Muqi Fachang (Muqi)
As I try to keep the length of each post to about 600 words (not that I easily would succeed), I might have to split this part about Muqi (1210-1269) in two. This is not because he would be more important than the other four painters, but because he is a kind of pivot between Southern Song painting and later Japanese zen-influenced art. Living as a Zen monk in the later part of the Southern Song dynasty he shared the fate of Ma Yuan and Xia Gui to being, after a short period of fame, first belittled and then forgotten in China. His work only survived in Japan. But there, the “Six Persimmons” are revered as a first pinnacle of Zen art and is kept at the Daitokuji temple in Kyoto.
There, I said the Z.. word again. And what I am dreading to do, I cannot longer avoid: explaining my view on Zen and art. I am dreading this not only because saying anything about Zen in a few words (or any number of them) seems quite inadequate. I am also quite aware of the risks inherent in “Westernizing” an Asian religion and philosophy, a trap into which (all too) many fellow admirers of Zen have fallen into. But overlaying one’s own cultural baggage on another culture is nothing less than intellectual colonialism; something I’d rather try to avoid.(more…)