In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Singing The Dyads: The Chinese Landscape Scroll and Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End
  • Anthony Hunt (bio)

Figures


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Figure 1.

Section #45546—Left side. Streams and Mountains Without End, China, Northern Song Dynasty, early 12th century. Hand scroll, ink with slight color on sil, 35.1 x 213 cm. ©The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1999, Gift of the Hanna Fund, 1953.126


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Figure 2.

Section #45546A—Center. Streams and Mountains Without End, China, Northern Song Dynasty, early 12th century. scroll, ink with slight color on sil, 35.1 x 213 cm. ©The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1999, Gift of the Hanna Fund, 1953.126


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Figure 3.

Section #45546B—Right side. Streams and Mountains Without End, China, Northern Song Dynasty, early 12th century. Hand scroll, ink with slight color on sil, 35.1 x 213 cm. ©The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1999, Gift of the Hanna Fund, 1953.126


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Figure 4.

Section #26684A (“three on land and two more in a boat just ‘a bit offshore’“) Streams and Mountains Without End, China, Northern Song Dynasty, early 12th century. Hand scroll, ink with slight color on sil, 35.1 x 213 cm. ©The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1999, Gift of the Hanna Fund, 1953.126


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Figure 5.

Section #26576A (“Another horse and a hiker”) Streams and Mountains Without End, China, Northern Song Dynasty, early 12th century. Hand scroll, ink with slight color on sil, 35.1 x 213 cm.

To hold the physical book in hand, slowly turning the pages of Gary Snyder’s Mountains and Rivers Without End, reinforces the impression that this work of a lifetime is, quite literally, an extended verbal landscape painting. Because the end papers reproduce images taken from a well-known Chinese horizontal hand scroll Ch’i-shan wu-chin (“Streams and Mountains Without End”), the thirty-nine sections of Snyder’s long poem appear as an interconnected extension of that horizontal turning. 1 Nor is it a surprise to discover that “Endless Streams and Mountains,” the opening section of Mountains and Rivers Without End, has been inspired and shaped by the scroll it describes, Ch’i-shan wu-chin.

Although the poet had been impressed by East Asian landscape paintings in Seattle as a young boy, he points to a critical moment in the development of his aesthetic sensibility—and of the genesis of his poem—when he was a student in Oriental languages at the University of California at Berkeley. While he practiced sumi painting under the tutelage of Chiura Obata, whose “Evening Glow at Yosemite Waterfall” 2 illuminates the book’s dust jacket cover, the poet was equally involved in understanding the spirit and mind of East Asian aesthetics: [End Page 7]

In museums and through books I became aware of how the energies of mist, white water, rock formations, air swirls—a chaotic universe where everything is in plac—eare so much a part of the East Asian painter’s world. In one book I came upon a reference to a hand scroll (shou-chuan) called Mountains and Rivers Without End. The name stuck in my mind. 3

To say “landscape painting” in China is, in fact, to say “mountains and rivers”:

. . . landscape is Master of Chinese painting. And yet “Landscape,” as you understand it in the West, is a misleading term; with you it includes leafy lanes, moorland, ploughed fields, forests, and downs—every possible aspect of the “land.” The Chinese term is “Shan-shui,” literally “Mountain and Stream,” and these two predominating elements of our well-loved country have long stood as symbols of all the aspects of Nature. 4

Depending on the writer, the Chinese ideograms are sometimes translated as “mountain-stream,” “mountain-river,” or “mountain-water”; yet however the phrase is translated, Chinese landscape painting attempts to capture the essence of life, in all its complementary nature:

In Chinese, the expression mountain-water means, by extension, the landscape, and so landscape painting is called mountain and water painting. . . . Mountain and water...

Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1464
Print ISSN
0022-281X
Pages
pp. 7-34
Launched on MUSE
1999-11-01
Open Access
No
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