Landscape of the Soul – Important Questions

Important Question and Answers

Q. Which part of the landscape painted by Wu Daozi, did the Emperor admire and how long?

Ans. The Emperor watched the painting for a long time. He admired the wonderful scene painted by Wu Daozi. He discovered forests, high mountains, waterfalls, clouds floating in the vast sky, men on hilly paths and birds in flight.

Q. What happened when Wu Daozi clapped his hands?

Ans. When the painter Wu Daozi clapped his hands the door of the cave opened. He entered the cave but its door closed after him. The painting vanished and nothing was heard of the painter thereafter.

Q. How does the Chinese story present the powers and limitations of Emperor and the painter?

Ans. The Emperor may commission a painter and appreciate his painting’s beauty, but only the artist reveals to him the true meaning of his work. Secondly, the Emperor may rule over the region he has conquered, but only the artist knows the way within.

Q. ‘Let me show the way,’ said Wu Daozi. Explain how the author interprets the word ‘way’.

Ans. The word ‘way’ according to the author has two meanings: (i) Path or the method and (ii) the mysterious works of the universe. The painter tells the king the path to the cave or the method to reach the cave. By entering the cave and disappearing from the world he explains the mysterious works of the universe.

Q. What is the importance of man between Yang and Yin?

Ans. Yang and Yin are the two complementary poles of the universe. Man is the conduit of communication between Heaven and Earth. His presence is essential. He is in Francois Cheng’s wonderful expression, ‘the eye of the landscape’.

Q. How would you classify ‘art’ on the basis of your reading the chapter ‘Landscape of the soul’?

Ans. We may classify art i.e., paintings and sculpture broadly as ‘mainstream’ offering ‘outsider art’. Whereas the former are the products of trained artists, the latter are the works of those who have received no formal training, yet show talent and artistic insight. It is the art of the untrained visionary.

Q. Describe the wonderful tale about the Chinese painter Wu Daozi. What does the author mean by giving it?

Ans. Wu Daozi was a famous painter of China of eighth century. His painting, ‘landscape’, was commissioned by the Tang Emperor Xuanzong to decorate the palace wall. Wu Daozi requested the Emperor to look at the cave in the painting in which lived a spirit. The painter clapped his hands. The cave opened and the painter entered it. But its door closed behind him. The painting vanished from the wall. The artist was not seen thereafter nor any trace of his brush etc. By this the author means to say that Chinese classical painting can be entered from any point. It is actually the spiritual and conceptual space. The artist creates a path for the viewer’s eye to enter the landscape. He doesn’t want the onlooker to borrow his eyes as happens in the case of European painting.

Q. How does the Chinese view of art differ from the European view? Illustrate your answer with examples.

Ans. A western figurative painting is meant to reproduce an actual view of the scene whereas a classical Chinese landscape is based on an imaginative, inner or spiritual approach. The Chinese art aims at achieving the essence of inner life and spirit while the European form of art is trying to achieve a perfect illusionistic liking. The European painter wants the viewer to borrow his eyes, and look at a particular exactly as he saw it, from a specific angle. On the other hand, the Chinese painter does not choose a single view point. His landscape is not a real one. He does not want the viewers to borrow his eyes. He wants the beholder to enter his mind. One can enter a Chinese landscape from any point and move across leisurely and come back. The Chinese view of art also requires an active participation of the viewer. This participation is both physical and mental. The stories about the paintings of Wu Daozi and an old story from Flanders amply illustrate the difference.

Q. Write a note on the concept of Shanshui as given in the ‘Landscape of the Soul? Explain the concept of Shanshui and the fundamental yogic practice.

Ans. Shanshui literally means ‘mountain and water’, which used together represents ‘landscape’. These represent two complementary poles, reflecting the Daoist view of the universe. The ‘mountain’ is Yang which reaches vertically towards Heaven. It is stable, warm and dry in the sun. The ‘water’ is Yin, which is horizontal and rests on the earth. It is fluid, moist and cool. Yin is feminine and Yang is masculine. The interaction between the two is the fundamental notion of Daoism. The third element, called the ‘Middle Void’, is often overlooked. But, it is essential as there takes place their interaction. This can be compared with the Yogic practice of pranayama. Nothing can happen without this element. Man is the conduit of communication between Heaven and Earth. He is actually “the eye of the landscape”.

Q. Which art does Nek Chand represent and how? How has he been honoured?

Ans. Nek Chand, through his creation, the Rock Garden at Chandigarh, represents what is called outside art or outsider art’. This art is described as art of those who have ‘no right’ to be artists. This is because they have received no formal training, yet they show talent and artistic insight. It is similar to the concept of’art brut’ or raw art’ originated by the French painter Jean Dubaffe in the 1940s. It is of those works that are in their raw state as regards cultural and artistic influences. Nek Chand has been honoured by the UK-based magazine titled ‘Raw Vision.’ This magazine is pioneer in ‘Outsider Art’ publications. It has featured Nek Chand and his Rock Garden sculpture, ‘Women by the Waterfall’ on its anniversary issue’s cover. It is its 50th issue (Spring 2005).

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