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Mountains and water: Chinese landscape painting
In China, the earliest landscapes were portrayed in three-dimensional form. Examples include mountain-shaped incense burners made of bronze or ceramic, produced as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 220). The earliest paintings date from the sixth century. Before the tenth century, the main subject was usually the human figure.
In the period following the Han dynasty, Buddhism spread across China. Artists began to illustrate stories of the life of the Buddha on earth and to create paradise paintings. In the background of some of these brightly coloured Buddhist paintings, it is possible to see examples of early landscape painting.
This scene is one of a series of three representing the life of the historical Buddha, Prince Sakyamuni, when he lived on earth. The mountains are simple triangles and their ridges are painted with short brush strokes to create texture. The water in the river is portrayed in a bold, diagrammatic way, conveying a sense of movement.