Woods and Valleys of Mount Yu

painting by Ni ZanThis hanging scroll dates back to 1372. It is the work of the famous Chinese artist Ni Tsan. Tsan or Zan as he is also known, was one of the Four Great Landscape Masters of the Yuan period. His work is characterized by large open spaces which often depict water, bamboo and for a lack of color and people. He worked with black ink and his landscapes are generally uninhabited by humans or animals.

This scroll measures, with mounting, 208.3 by 52.4 cm.

It’s my guess that the Mount Yu of this painting is not the highest mountain in Taiwan but actually a reference to the mythological Jade Mountain. This painting was completed while Ni was traveling in an area of mainland China that is north of Taiwan. He spent much of his time visiting Buddhist and Daoist monasteries. In Chinese mythology, Yu Shan or Jade Mountain was the home of the Three Pure Ones. The Three Pure Ones are regarded as the pure manifestation of the Tao and the origin of all sentient beings.

Ni Tsan is also noted for his skill at poetry. The poem on this piece ends with the four lines…

We watch the clouds and daub with our brushes
We drink wine and write poems.
The joyous feelings of this day
Will linger long after we have parted.

You can learn more about this Chinese artist and see additional examples of his work in our Ni Zan biography.