Arts, literature, and philosophy
Arts, literature, and philosophy
The visual arts
during the Song Dynasty were heightened by new developments such as advances in
landscape and portrait painting. The gentry elite engaged in the arts as
accepted pastimes of the cultured scholar-official, including painting,
composing poetry, and writing calligraphy. The poet and statesman Su Shi
and his associate Mi Fu (1051–1107) enjoyed antiquarian affairs, often borrowing
or buying art pieces to study and copy. Poetry and literature profited from
the rising popularity and development of the ci poetry form. Enormous
encyclopedic volumes were compiled, such as works of historiography and dozens
of treatises on technical subjects. This included the universal history text of
the Zizhi Tongjian, compiled into 1000 volumes of 9.4 million written Chinese
characters. The genre of Chinese travel literature also became popular with the
writings of the geographer Fan Chengda (1126–1193) and Su Shi, the latter of
whom wrote the 'daytrip essay' known as Record of Stone Bell Mountain that used
persuasive writing to argue for a philosophical point. Although an early
form of the local geographic gazetteer existed in China since the 1st century,
the matured form known as "treatise on a place", or fangzhi, replaced the old
"map guide", or tujing, during the Song Dynasty.
The imperial courts of the emperor's palace were filled with his entourage of court painters, calligraphers, poets, and storytellers. Emperor Huizong was a renowned artist as well as a patron of the arts. A prime example of a highly venerated court painter was Zhang Zeduan (1085–1145) who painted an enormous panoramic painting, Along the River During the Qingming Festival. Emperor Gaozong of Song initiated a massive art project during his reign, known as the Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute （胡笳十八拍） from the life story of Cai Wenji (b. 177). This art project was a diplomatic gesture to the Jin Dynasty while he negotiated for the release of his mother from Jurchen captivity in the north.
In philosophy, Chinese Buddhism had waned in influence but it retained its hold on the arts and on the charities of monasteries. Buddhism had a profound influence upon the budding movement of Neo-Confucianism, led by Cheng Yi (1033–1107) and Zhu Xi (1130–1200). Mahayana Buddhism influenced Fan Zhongyan and Wang Anshi through its concept of ethical universalism, while Buddhist metaphysics had a deep impact upon the pre–Neo-Confucian doctrine of Cheng Yi. The philosophical work of Cheng Yi in turn influenced Zhu Xi. Although his writings were not accepted by his contemporary peers, Zhu's commentary and emphasis upon the Confucian classics of the Four Books as an introductory corpus to Confucian learning formed the basis of the Neo-Confucian doctrine. By the year 1241, under the sponsorship of Emperor Lizong, Zhu Xi's Four Books and his commentary on them became standard requirements of study for students attempting to pass the civil service examinations. The East Asian countries of Japan and Korea also adopted Zhu Xi's teaching, known as the Shushigaku (朱子学, School of Zhu Xi) of Japan, and in Korea the Jujahak (주자학). Buddhism's continuing influence can be seen in painted artwork such as Lin Tinggui's Luohan Laundering. However, the ideology was highly criticized and even scorned by some. The statesman and historian Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072) called the religion a "curse" that could only be remedied by uprooting it from Chinese culture and replacing it with Confucian discourse. Buddhism would not see a true revival in Chinese society until the Mongol rule of the Yuan Dynasty, with Kublai Khan's sponsorship of Tibetan Buddhism and Drogön Chögyal Phagpa as the leading lama. The Christian sect of Nestorianism—which had entered China in the Tang era—would also be revived in China under Mongol rule.
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