"Encountering and/or becoming an immortal" is the dream of many ancient people pursuing immortality. Many works of Chinese landscape painting in the collection of the National Palace Museum deal with or refer to lands of the immortals, where Mount Penglai, the so-called island of immortals, and the sacred Mount Kunlun are two paradises of immortality familiar to many in Chinese mythology. These were said to be places where immortal sages resided. As for those in search of immortality, famous mountains and grotto abodes were not only sites for finding medicinal plants, refining elixirs, and learning the practices of becoming immortal, but also a "medium" for encountering immortals and ascending to the realm of eternal life.
This exhibition catalogue includes thirty works displayed at the special exhibition Whereto Paradise: Picturing Mountains of Immortality in Chinese Art, including those of immortals, grotto paradises, and blessed lands. The special exhibition is divided into the following sections: "Floating Mists of Immortal Realms," "Different Abodes of Immortality," and "Prolonging Life and Becoming an Immortal." The first section of the exhibition, "Floating Mists of Immortal Realms," deals with the fabulous beauty of immortal mountain palaces, including such places of paradise as Kunlun, Penglai, Fanghu, and Yingzhou. The works include a Song dynasty tapestry of "Hall in Mountains of the Immortals," Wen Boren's "Fanghu from the Ming Dynasty," and "Gathering of Immortals at Penglai" attributed to the Song painter Zhao Daheng. The second section, "Different Abodes of Immortality," focuses on grotto paradises and blessed lands to represent the mystery of sacred mountains and immortal grottoes. Related to the reverence of Daoist painters for sacred mountains, representative examples include "Mountain Halls of the Immortals" attributed to the Five Dynasties painter Dong Yuan and "Sacred Mountains and Precious Groves" by the Yuan artist Fang Congyi. These two are "restricted" works on display in rotation. Finally, the third section, "Prolonging Life and Becoming an Immortal," reflects on the quest for immortality with sometimes unconventional methods and manifestations, as seen in such works as "Three Immortals Receiving the Text" attributed to the Song artist Yan Wengui and "Dogs and Chickens amid the Clouds" by Cui Zizhong of the Ming.
To offer audiences a divine journey through ancient works to the mountains of immortals and, in the process, enable them to understand their cultural significance, this exhibition catalogue contains monograph "Exploring Paintings on Mountains of Immortality by Examining the Exhibition Items" that provides an in-depth analysis. Hall in Mountains of the Immortals, one of the major display items in this exhibition and one featuring silk tapestry with cut designs, is used as the title page of this exhibition catalogue to show readers how ancient people used precious textiles to illustrate fantasy paradises.
Binding type: Hardcover
Languages: Chinese and English
Related network resources: Exhibition Catalogue for Special Exhibition Whereto Paradise: Picturing Mountains of Immortality in Chinese Art