Group members: Darren, Feli, Sarah, Isabella

Topic: Nihonga Japanese Screen Painting

Chosen Artifact

Four Seasons with Sun and Moon, as seen in the National Museum of Singapore, “Treasures from the British Museum”.

Visual Analysis

  • Both screens have subject matters of nature and landscape: trees in different seasons, hills and valleys ‘framing’ the trees, grass, flowers.
  • Golden frame.
  • Each screen is divided into 2 ‘scenery’. First image: winter (L) with its white snow on the leaves, autumn (R) with red falling leaves, and both are during the day because the tone is bright. Second image: Summer (L) with barren land and withered plant, spring (R) with baby plants, blooming flowers and grass, and both are during the night because there is circular moon at the top side of the painting

Contextual Analysis

  • Sun represents the male yang, moon represents the female yin
  • The way of yin and yang (‘Onmyodo’) in the religious context
  • Yang also represents brightness/light while yin represents darkness.
  • The four seasons is a common subject matter in japanese paintings. It represents a full cycle and the passing of time. Expressing a transition.

Visual Response Idea

  • The digital painting of Singapore modern landscape.
  • Might include famous landmarks, buildings and places such as Merlion, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore Flyer, Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, Esplanade Theatre and many more.
  • Nature’s element presented in the painting: rain forest trees, orchids, or other plants which are present in Singapore.
  • The painting can be folded, just like Japanese screens


Commemorating the 50th anniversary of Japan-Singapore diplomatic relationship. That is the reason why we combine Japanese traditional aspect (folded screen) with modern landscape of Singapore. We feel that not many people know about this ongoing special celebration, hence this visual response might serve more than just a display but an informative artwork.

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


Chinese Landscape paintings are paintings of nature. They often illustrate mountains, trees, clouds, birds, flowers and water and painted with expressive calligraphic brushworks in monochrome.[1] The first traces of the Landscape in art could be found in tomb art, secular art and Buddhist art. In these early images, the landscape is not the focus but serves as a background to support the main narratives. However, over the years, the Landscape has become an important subject in Chinese art especially during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Without a doubt, Chinese Landscape painting has developed greatly since its first prevalence in history. In this essay, I will compare two such paintings, Guo Xi’s Early Spring and Emperor Hui-tsung’s Five-coloured Parakeet, through exploring subject matter, technique, composition and purpose. While many might have thought of Chinese Landscape paintings to be simply depictions of beautiful scenery, there might be a deeper meaning to these picturesque masterpieces. Though both paintings are representations of nature, I believe they each carry very different symbolisms.



In Early Spring and Five-coloured Parakeet, the subject matter plays an important role in bringing meaning to the work. Guo’s work depicts mainly mountains, trees, rocks, mist and a waterfall. Also, if we pay close attention to the details of the painting, we would find a temple near the start of the waterfall and people, such as travelers and fishermen, near the foot of the mountain.[2] It is said that distant mountains often represents refuge or paradise. [3] This could be tied to an obvious religious symbol in the painting – the temple. Incorporating these two symbols could suggest that perhaps one will be able to be closer to heaven by staying faithful to the religion. On the other hand, Five-coloured Parakeet depicts a lone parakeet perched on a flowering branch. The parakeet signifies dignity and nobility while flowers commonly represent beautiful women, scholarly purity and reclusion. The use of these symbols might indicate a person’s high status. There is similarity in subject matter of both paintings, that is they are all part of nature. They are recognizable objects because they exist in our surroundings. Hence, the subject matter is easily relatable and would help viewers to draw inference and put meaning to the works. Despite both paintings depicting an aspect of nature, they both set one’s sight on two notably different ideas.


[1] Department of Asian Art. “Landscape Painting in Chinese Art.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000-. (October 2004)

[2] 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.

[3] Hearn, Maxwell K. How to read Chinese paintings. Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008.


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.

“What did the rest of you find most interesting in today’s excellent presentation on the Hindu Temple?”

I think the team did a great job of setting the atmosphere at the beginning of the presentation with the bananas and the jasmine scent. I really like the interactivity and i was thoroughly engaged throughout the presentation.

The presentation was also very well organised which allowed me to follow and understand the presentation easily. For example, they started with the history of the temple, then moved on to the structure, the god/godesses, rituals, etc. Even though i did not visit the temple personally, it felt like i was there during the presentation.

Overall, i liked the presentation very much and was able to learn alot from it.

“What is your favourite Buddhist Temple in Singapore? Why?”

Unfortunately, i don’t have a favourite Buddhist temple because i’m not a Buddhist and so, i did not know how to put down my response to this question at first (which was why i took so long). Coincidentally, I had a conversation about Buddhist Temples with my uncle when i visited my grandma’s during the chinese new year holiday. The conversation started with my uncle asking me to draw something for me to hang up in his house. Then i asked him what he wanted me to draw. Being a Buddhist himself, he said he wanted a drawing of a Buddhist Temple, more specifically the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple located in Chinatown.

While thinking about what to write for this post 2 weeks ago, i did some research and came across this temple because it was listed in the top 10 best buddhist temples in singapore. I have to say, it is a very beautiful temple. I find the exterior of the temple simply amazing and i’m sure the interior will be too. Going back to the conversation i had with my uncle, I told him that we were learning about buddhist art in art history and he was very interested in listening to what i had to say. I also asked him which temple he usually visits and he replied that he normally goes to a temple in Eunos (which i forgot the name of).

So for now, the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple will be my (and my uncle’s) favourite buddhist temple.


Like most people here in ADM (I assume, because we rely heavily on visuals), I believe i’m more of a visual learner. I used to draw mind-maps and write my own notes because I remember images better than I remember text. I have always wondered why I was able to recall information more easily that way so, I turned to google and did a search.

“By representing information spatially and with images, students are able to focus on meaning, reorganise and group similar ideas easily, and make better use of their visual memory.”

It is literally “photographic” memory. When I study and remember the mind-map as a whole image, it becomes easier for me to pick out specific information that I need.

I also find that I learn better with friends. In JC, my friends and I used to study together all the time. That way, if any of us had any questions or topics we didn’t understand, we could ask one another for help. When we had discussions, those who were weaker in that particularly topic was able to learn from those who had better understanding of that topic.