Name a River
Topographical Views in East Asia

27.03.2012 to 23.09.2012
Museum für Asiatische Kunst

Landscape is a key subject in the painting of East Asia. Of all schools, literati painting was most concerned with creating general, abstracted landscapes, often in the style of famous masters of the past. Views of specific, actual landscapes or places do not occupy as prominent a position as in Western art, although they do appear again and again in a variety of contexts. For one, there are only a limited number of famous mountains, lakes or rivers that are of historical significance in East Asia and which are vital to a culture and identity of a nation or people. These sites were often visited by literati and served as a source of inspiration for painting and poetry.

Precise, clearly identifiable depictions of landscapes and cities can be found in documentary painting and prints. Many such images amounted to depictions of popular travel destinations: mountains, rivers, cities and temples of cultural-historical interest that often served a touristic purpose. The educated viewer would usually have been familiar with the myths and tales associated with the depicted places and would have been able to interpret them even when they were not expressly named in the inscription. Some views, however, are only identifiable through the inscription added to them.

Spectacular works from Korea and Japan form important highlights in the exhibition. The sheets from the Korean folding screen present a kind of painted map of Mount Kumgang, an important pilgrimage site for Korean Buddhism, while the Japanese depiction of the northern section of one of the most important shopping streets in the city of Edo - now Tokyo - gives us a snapshot of an uncommonly vivid and amusing depiction of a topography of the city.
Also included in the exhibition is a contemporary, conceptional view, reflected in the horizontal scroll by Miao Xiaochun. It was created as part of a project that takes individually selected ideas and subjects and abstracts them to produce the greatest possible degree of objectivity in representation.

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