Blue-Green Realms in Chinese Painting

The blue-green (qinglu 青綠) mode of painting landscapes was well established by the Tang dynasty (618–907), as can be seen in Tang wall paintings at the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, in northwestern China. In later times, painted landforms in blue-green colors were used as allusions to the distant past or to paradisiacal realms. Sometimes outlined in gold, the brightly colored pigments incorporated minerals that were used in alchemical practices searching for an elixir of immortality. More than just a representation of the natural world, therefore, the paintings also embodied the magical properties associated with the imagined realms of the immortals. Tang dynasty examples of blue-green painting are also thought to have been the basis for the development in Japan of the yamato-e style in its use of bright mineral pigments and gold.

  • Purification Studio (Dizhai tu 滌齋圖)
    Purification Studio (Dizhai tu 滌齋圖), undated, ca. 1506
    Ming dynasty, 1368–1644
    Shen Zhou 沈周, 1427–1509
  • Friendship in Stone (Shijiao tu 石交圖)
    Friendship in Stone (Shijiao tu 石交圖), dated 1640
    Ming dynasty, 1368–1644
    Ni Yuanlu 倪元璐, 1593–1644
  • Mountain Dwelling (Shan ju tu 山居圖)
    Mountain Dwelling (Shan ju tu 山居圖), ca. 1986
    Modern period, 1912–present
    Li Huasheng 李華生, Chinese, 1944–2018
  • Landscape
    Landscape, 1958–63
    Modern period, 1912–present | copy after wall painting, High Tang dynasty, 704–781
    James C. Lo Workshop
  • Garland Cliff
    Garland Cliff, March 7, 2018
    Kelly Wang (Wang Jiayi王佳怡), American, born 1992
  • Recluse Studio No. 3
    Recluse Studio No. 3, February 23, 2018
    Kelly Wang (Wang Jiayi王佳怡), American, born 1992