Quigley, Jared - Confucian Taoist influences on Chinese Art Culture

Confucian & Taoist influences on
Chinese Art & Culture
Confucian temple in Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Jared Quigley
• A philosophical religious tradition
that emerged towards the middle
of the Zhou Dynasty
• Like Buddhism, based on the
teachings of one man:
Confucius (551-479 BCE)
• After his death his sayings along
with his followers were collected in
a volume called The Analects which
drew on cultural values anchored in
ancient Chinese tradition, focusing
on this world, rather than the next
• Emphasized importance of
traditional values of self control,
propriety, filial piety to maintain a
productive society
“What the superior man seeks is in
himself, what the small man seeks
is in other”
• Confucius’ point of departure
was the individual, rather than
• Individual = virtuous, family =
living in harmony
• If each family lives according to
moral principals = the village is
Four Qualities of Confucianism
Li – proper attitudes towards conduct
Jen – ideal relationships that should exist between people
Te – moral example rather than the physical strength or might
Wen – the arts are a form of moral education
- Confucius, like the great philosopher Plato, believed
music should be used to educate. It was meant to display the
qualities of moderation & harmony, similar to his virtues of
social & political life. Certain aspects of music were avoided,
like the ability to induce excited states of emotion.
“I am not at all interested in
immortality, only in the taste
of tea.”
• Founded by Laozi [LOW–ZEE] (b.
604 BCE) “The Old Master”
• Like Confucianism, principally
concerned with morality and
ethical behavior to benefit those in
the present world
• Considered a philosophy rather
than a religion
• Teachings summarized in Tao Te
Ching (The Way and its Power)
Confucianism & Taoism
• Confucianism represents the classical; Taoism represents the
• Confucianism stresses social responsibility; Taoism stresses
responsibility towards nature
• Confucianism emphasizes humans; Taoism emphasizes nature
• Confucianism is practical; Taoism is mystical
Cebu Taoist
Temple, Beverly
Hills, Cebu City,
Art Emersion
• China reunified after a half century of
civil war at the end of the Tang
Dynasty in 907
• Song emperors created two
conditions necessary for artistic
-An abundance of leisure time allowing
for reformation of Confucian ideas
known as Neo-Confucianism
-The availability of patronage – which
helped bring a resurgence in the art
of painting & elaborations of art
Seeking the Tao in the Autumn
Mountains by Zhu Jan
• Painting flourished during Song
• Represents Taoist influence as
suggested in name
• Huge mountains create a sense of the
remote and eternal, rising in the
center suggesting a modest position
of humanity in the grand scale of the
natural world
• Tao is imminent , existing in nature,
manifesting its ordering principle in
the cycle of the seasons, flowing of
rivers, & singing of birds
Early Spring
• Central peak represents
the emperor himself, the
tall pines the gentlemanly
ideals of the court
• The ideal Confucian &
Buddhist world, the
mountain, the trees, and
the hills suggest the
proper order and rhythm
of the universe
• Guo Xi used “the angle of
totality” to develop
multiple perspectives
within the painting
Guo Xi (ca. 1020-1090), Early Spring, dated
Early Spring
• Using textures strokes, a
technique used by most
Song landscapists, Guo
illustrates credible, three
dimensional forms
• Incorporating 7-8 layers
of ink in softer areas and
broad outlines shows a
preference for integration
Guo Xi (ca. 1020-1090), Early Spring, dated
• Gui Xi suggested mountains could be
viewed in terms of "high farness" and
"deep farness,“ or from horizontal
and vertical perspectives
• Through this he illustrates the “four
possibilities” able to see, to walk , to
travel and to live
• Guo Xi’s work included large-scale
paintings for the decoration of
several halls at court
• After his death his work had fallen so
far out of favor a visitor to the court
reports seeing someone using his
paintings as rags
Autumn in the River Valley
By Guo Xi
Neo - Confucianism
• Abundance of leisure time in the Song allowed for
reformation of confusion ideas
• Unified the three creeds of Buddhism, Taoism, and
Confucianism into a single system of thought
• One of China’s most influential rationalist Neo-Confucians Zhu
Xi (1130–1200) stressed the "unity of the three creeds," the
unity of the three great philosophies of Buddhism,
Confucianism, and Taoism
• Zhu Xi maintained his Confucian beliefs of social harmony and
proper personal conduct while relating it to the Buddhist
observance of high moral standards
The three teachings are one!
• Confucians of the Song Dynasty studied the classical works of
their faith, but were also familiar with Buddhist and Taoist
• Buddhism offered Confucians ideas related to the nature of
the soul and relation of the individual to the cosmos, ideas
not yet explored by Confucianism
• This sparked the emergence of “The three creeds,” Confucius,
Buddha, & Laozi in Chinese and Japanese painting, becoming
popular during the Song and Yuan periods
Sān Jiào
This three way unity called Sān Jiào,
literally means “Three Religions.” In
Chinese and Japanese artwork, it
spawned the pictorial theme known as
the Three Patriarchs
Buddha (curled hair)
Laozi (elder)
Sansuantu (Three Sages Tasting Vinegar)
• Legend states a poet and his friend
were journeying to a temple to
visit a monk
• The monk brought out a jug of
peach wine to the delight of the
three men
• The men represent China’s three
creeds illustrating “The three
creeds are one”
Sansuantu (Three Sages Tasting Vinegar)
A second interpretation
• Confucius displays a sour
face toward life, because
rules & regulations are not
strictly obeyed
• Buddha a bitter face of life’s
suffering, sickness, old age,
and death
• Laozi smiles, life is harmony,
sweet not sour or bitter, if
one flows like water without
interfering with the stream
of life
Huxi Sanxiao (Three Laughers of Tiger Ravine)
• After an evening together
these three men (a poet,
Taoist, and Buddhist
theologian) inadvertently
cross the forbidden Tiger
Ravine bridge
• After crossing, all three
broke into laughter
enlightened by realizing a
narrow view of one religion
or philosophy is contrary to
true religion
• Variations represent
China’s three creeds
• Why is Taoism considered a philosophy rather
than a religion?
• What are some similarities/differences
between Taoism & Confucianism?
• How are Confucianism & Taoism portrayed
through art?
Poet on a Mountaintop, Shen Zhou, Ming dynasty, c.a. 1500
Portrays human beings as a small element within a large natural scence
Three Laughers of Tiger Ravine
• How do the ideas behind China’s “Three
Creeds” unify?

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