Art History: Research Assignment Proposal

Research Assignment Proposal

  1. What is Chinese landscape painting? Compare Guo Xi’s Early Spring to a bird and flower painting by Emperor Hui-tsung.



  • Define Chinese landscape painting
  • Characteristics of Chinese painting
  • Briefly introduce the two artworks: Guo Xi’s Early Spring and Emperor Hui-tsung’s Five-coloured parakeet
  • Essay aims to compare the two artworks in terms of subject matter, technique, composition and purpose (differences and similarities)


Subject matter

  • Early spring: nature and landscapes, mountains, trees, rocks, waterfall. A temple near the start of the waterfall and people such as travelers and fishermen.
  • In China, mountains are often seen as points which connect to heaven
  • Five-coloured parakeet: a parakeet perched on a single flowering branch
  • The parakeet symbolizes dignity and nobility. Flowers often symbolizes beautiful women, scholarly purity and reclusion in Chinese poetry.
  • Subject matter carries heavy symbolism, though both are related to nature


  • Early spring: overlaying washes of ink and light colours. More details in the foreground as compared to the background to create a sense of depth. Strokes are rather gestural to suggest forms.
  • Five-coloured parakeet: painting is detailed (eg. The feathers of the bird), naturalistic, uses bright colours to put emphasis on the bird.
  • Both are brush on silk


  • Early spring: composition is building upwards, strong foreground, asymmetrical, vertical emphasis
  • Five-coloured parakeet: painting occupies the left side of the composition while the poem occupies the right.
  • Both puts focus on the subject matter with a muted and plain background


  • Early spring is a reminiscent of Yuan imagery of the Li Guo school ascribed to Yao Yanqing and Yang Weizhen
  • Human and nature co-existing (eg. Temple in the midst of the mountains)
  • Five-coloured parakeet: merging of two art forms – art and poetry


Temporary Bibliography:

Harrist, Robert E. “Ch’ien Hsüan’s” Pear Blossoms”: The Tradition of Flower Painting and Poetry from Sung to Yüan.” Metropolitan Museum Journal 22 (1987): 53-70.


Foong, Ping. 2000. “Guo Xi’s Intimate Landscapes and the Case of “old Trees, Level Distance””. Metropolitan Museum Journal 35. [University of Chicago Press, Metropolitan Museum of Art]: 87–115. doi:10.2307/1513027.


Stanley-Baker, Joan. 1991. “The Problem of Retouching in Ancient Chinese Paintings or Trying to See Through Centuries”. Artibus Asiae 51 (3/4). Artibus Asiae Publishers: 257–74. doi:10.2307/3249670.

1 comment

  1. Good introduction. You have a plan!
    Thanks for including your bibliography! But, it has two old sources… YO also haven’t covered your three types of sources…
    You have an idea! the last sentence in your first body paragraph!
    Purpose and context is a bit weak… But there is a point there too about art and poetry!
    The essay is well organized–well done! Let’s keep working!

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