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Between and Mortarboard

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Ali Mountain Based on Sketches - 6

Accession Number

Ali Mountain Based on Sketches - 6

Chang Ku-nien

Object Creation Date

Medium & Support
hanging scroll, ink on paper

68 1/8 in. x 36 13/16 in. ( 173 cm x 93.5 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of Ted and Syauchen Baker

Label copy
Ali Mountain, located in the central part of Taiwan, is one of the country’s most famous scenic landmarks. It is best known for the beauty of the vast “sea of clouds ” surrounding the peaks and the towering “divine giant trees” punctuating the mountain’s ridges and surrounding valley. Here Chang vividly captures these distinctive features by using very wet ink washes for the misty clouds and drier brushstrokes for the large pine trees. These six paintings together form a “screen of connected scenes” or “sea curtain,” a traditional type of mounting that allows the artist to present a panoramic view of a monumental landscape. Each of the individual panels was painted lying flat on the ground in the artist’s studio, then the inscriptions were added at the top by the artist himself, and finally they were mounted together.
Though the ostensible subject of the paintings is Ali Mountain, the inscriptions in running-script calligraphy (xingshu) reveal that this painting in the traditional literati mode is also a commentary on whether Taiwan (the Republic of China) or the People’s Republic of China is the true inheritor of Chinese culture. Chang, a nationalist born and trained as an artist in China, was forced to move to Taiwan after the communist revolution on the mainland. The inscriptions describe a dream-state in which the speaker looks through dark rainclouds toward his lost homeland and imagines one day recovering it.
(Gallery Rotation Fall 2011)

Subject matter
Located in middle-Taiwan, the Ali Mountain is one of the most famous scenic landmarks among Taiwan’s National Parks. Ali Mountain is best known for the beauty of the vast “cloud sea” surrounding the mountain peaks and the towering “divine giant trees” found amid the ridges and valley of the mountain.
The painting’s format, a traditional mounting style called “the screen of connected scenes” or “sea curtain”, gives the artist the advantage of representing a panoramic view of monumental landscapes. Each of six individual pieces was first painted on the ground in the artist’s studio with an overall composition envisioned in the artist’s mind. Then, the inscriptions were added on the top, (inscribed by the artist himself in this case), and finally the six paintings were mounted into the current format.
Inscribed is a piece of classic Song lyrics (the most popular in the Song dynasty), written in calligraphy style running script. The poetic lines describe a forested mountain filled with vigorous energies. Yet the atmosphere is melancholic. The vast landscape appears dream-like, symbolically representing the lost homeland of Chang and his peer generation-- mainland China-- that awaits its recovery from the Chinese Communists. The inscription thus connects the painting’s otherwise natural scenery to the advocated political theme of the Nationalist government’s rule in Taiwan in 1960s.

Physical Description
One of six hanging scrolls in a series depicting the landscape of Ali Mountain, trees and hillside are shown below calligraphic text. The artist uses alternating wet ink washes for the misty clouds and dry flying-brushes for the large pine trees

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type
hanging scroll

Additional Object Classification(s)

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hanging scrolls

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