One Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains
Wang Ximeng (王希孟, fl. late 11th to early 12th c.), Song Dynasty (960–1279)
Handscroll, ink and color on silk, 51.5 x 1191.5 cm, Palace Museum, Beijing
This painting is probably the finest example of Chinese blue-green landscape painting. It is the only surviving piece by the young genius Wang Ximeng, who painted it under Emperor Huizong’s guidance when he was 18 years old. Little is known about Wang Ximeng himself. It is said that he passed away probably around the age of 20.
The entire piece, painted in the hand scroll format, deployed scattered perspectives and the three visual angles (height, depth, level-distance), which are commonly used in Chinese landscape paintings. When viewing this piece, the viewer’s line of sight is directed along the contours of the mountains and rivers with a panoramic view of thousands of miles across.
This painting uses scarce mineral pigments with bright colors to depict the peaceful and prosperous country. In ancient Chinese landscape paintings, especially court paintings, the natural landscape is often a metaphor for the Emperor’s longevity and the dynasty’s everlasting prosperity. One Thousand Li of Rivers and Mountains, as its name implies, depicts the vast country landscape. It is the ideal world with perfect order and harmony according to the Emperor’s will, and it is also the Daoist fairyland in the heart of the Daoist Emperor Huizong.