The Virtue of Chinese Painting
(Clearwisdom.net) Chinese painting is of rich cultural content and also one of the oldest historical artistic traditions. It conveys the perception of the artist, awareness of the surroundings and inspiration, called "artistic conceptualization." When portraying humans, objects and landscapes, the artist can convey specific messages, eliciting a sympathetic response from the viewers.
Three main types of artistic conceptualizations are found in Chinese painting:
1. The perception of openness, broadness, brightness, and generosity.
2. An expression of nobleness, elegance, and uprightness.
3. Conveyance of peacefulness, tranquility, profoundity and honesty.
These three artistic styles were the fundamentals throughout history and a painting was only considered of true artistic Chinese art if it achieved one of these three standards. Besides these baselines, if a painting exuded meanings such as loyalty and chastity, or simplicity and purity, then they would also be considered true artistic paintings and precious to the viewer. Paintings of divinities, Buddhas, the universe, individuals of great character generally expressed the above sentiments. Additionally, drawings of plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo, and chrysanthemums represent integrity and are valued as true artistic subject matter.
Tang Dynasty artist Wu Daozi was praised to be "an exceptional painter of saints." He painted Buddhas and Taoists in over four hundred rooms at Chang'an and Luoyang temples, conveying different expressions. The paintings convey the dignity of divine beings and the glory of the heavens. When he was painting in the Chang'an Xingshan Temple, Chang'an residents came to watch and praise him. His paintings reflect the divine beings' brightness and truly touch one's heart. The meaning behind the painting is quite deep. The kindness and beauty of the divine being reveals the painter's creativity, inspirational achievements and purifies the mind of the viewers. The people who view the painting may be affected after looking at the paintings and may be convinced of the principle that good or evil actions will bring karmic returns. A cultivator may be able to be more diligent in his/her cultivation after seeing such paintings.
Tang Dynasty artist Yan Liben's The Authentic Appearance of Taizong and Twenty-four Officials with Outstanding Contributions at Lingyan Cabinet portrayed the first emperor of Tang Dynasty Li Shimin and his officials. People commended it as the apotheosis of painting. His Painting of the Western Regions portrayed different minorities and reflected the friendly relationship Tang Dynasty had with other region's minorities. His Painting of Wei Zheng Advising showed the official Wei Zheng being straight forward when advising Emperor Taizong and the emperor's willingness to accept others' advice. All paintings praise the Tang Dynasty's glory and prosperity and reflect a spirit of thriving vitality, which make people want to return in time and experience what it was like.
"Representation of virtue" is one of the features of the Chinese culture. It means representing some virtue through different objects and conveying good character. For example, bamboo represents "morality," plum blossom "integrity," and so on. Yuan Dynasty artist Wang Mian drew plum blossoms throughout his life and encouraged himself through this to achieve the virtue associated with the plum blossom. Generally, his paintings are associated with a specific poem. This gave great meaning to his paintings.
Chinese paintings pay very close attention to the meaning behind and connotation presented by the picture. When the artist's and viewer's mind resonates, the viewer will understand the artists' state of mind. The effect is very good. Thus this requires the artist to not only have achieved good techniques and perfect compositions, but also be of great moral character. Ancient literature about Chinese painting discussed this subject in depth. Those who want to study drawing must first be of good moral character. Once they have achieved such character, their painting will express brightness and honesty. One's character can be seen from ones writing and this wisdom is also true for paintings. We see that the moral character and understanding about cultures directly affects ones level of painting. Thus, to do well in painting, one must first be a good person.
When the viewers look at Chinese paintings, they can transcend the detailed and limited objects and landscapes of the paintings and enter the infinite time and space, and thus gain philosophical understandings about life, history, and the universe.
Today, the universal principle "Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance" is widely spread in the world. It has brought happiness and blessings to people and fulfilled what many have been waiting for. Artists have held the "Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance Art Exhibition" to show the greatness of Dafa, honor divine beings, and expose the persecution in China. The exhibitions also help people distinguish right from wrong and recognize what real beauty is. Also, it reflects the highest state of art - pure truthfulness, pure kindness, and pure beauty. Art and, for that matter, anything else cannot be separated from guidance by the Fa principles. Fulfilling the true principles and spreading the principle of kindness in different ways are not only the artist's responsibility, but also the responsibility of every one of us.