The art of the Song dynasty

The Song dynasty is known especially for the development of monumental landscape painting.

960–1279 C.E.

Beginner's Guide

What is the Song Dynasty?

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<em>Bodhisattva of Compassion Seated in Royal Ease</em> at the Denver Art Museum
Bodhisattva of Compassion Seated in Royal Ease at the Denver Art Museum

Bodhisattva of Compassion Seated in Royal Ease depicts the bodhisattva Guanyin gazing down as if listening intently to its devotees. Guanyin’s name means “the one who always hears.” Discover what makes this 1,000-year-old sculpture a masterpiece with Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the Denver Art Museum.

Gu Kaizhi, <em>Nymph of the Luo River</em>
Gu Kaizhi, Nymph of the Luo River

We can recognize from Gu Kaizhi's painting the emergence of Chinese landscape tradition.

Ceramic pillow
Ceramic pillow

Ceramic pillows became a popular domestic item among middle- and upper-class families during the Song dynasty

Bowl with “oil spot” glaze
Bowl with “oil spot” glaze

Jian ware tea bowls were highly prized in China but seem to have gone out of fashion there, whereas the Japanese adopted them for use in tea ceremonies.

Guan ware long-necked vase
Guan ware long-necked vase

Guan ware is probably one of the rarest and most admired types of Chinese ceramics in the present world.

Illustration to the <em>Fumu enzhong jing</em>, Dunhuang
Illustration to the Fumu enzhong jing, Dunhuang

The central section of the painting is made up of scenes illustrating the Fumu enzhong jing, an apocryphal sutra that was popular at Dunhuang in this later period.

Stencil for a five-figure Buddha group
Stencil for a five-figure Buddha group

This stencil (or pounce) is one of very few to survive, and is the largest and most impressive of those found at Mogao.

Song dynasty (960–1279), an introduction
Song dynasty (960–1279), an introduction

Overall, the Song dynasty was a time of stability and economic, cultural, and artistic prosperity.

Liang Kai (attributed), <em>White Egret</em>
Liang Kai (attributed), White Egret

A painting of a lonely white egret standing in shallow water, attributed to the famous painter Liang Kai

The art of salvation—Mt. Baoding, Dazu rock carvings
The art of salvation—Mt. Baoding, Dazu rock carvings

The monumental sculptural complex at Mt. Baoding, Dazu in China consists of nearly 10,000 painted and gilded images of Buddhist deities and narrative scenes carved out of sandstone.

Master of the (Fishing) Nets Garden
Master of the (Fishing) Nets Garden

Every inch of this contemplative space was carefully crafted—there’s bamboo, patterned paving, and scholar’s rocks.

Liang Kai, <em>Poet Strolling by a Marshy Bank</em>
Liang Kai, Poet Strolling by a Marshy Bank

The subject is conventional, but Liang Kai’s airy composition makes this painting unusual. What’s behind the mist?

Selected Contributors