Chinese painting, as with many aspects of Chinese culture, is centered around tradition. During the Ming Dynasty, Chinese painting took on more individualistic impressions. Considered one the of the four greats of the era, Tang Yin is celebrated not only as painter but also a poet and calligrapher. Indeed one of the most noticeable aspects of the Chinese painting style is the use of calligraphy (often a poem) and similar brush work in the actual painting. The painting style of the Ming Dynasty more closely tied painting and calligraphy together. What makes this painting significant is that until recently it was thought to be by another artist from five hundred years earlier. The poem was instructive to scholars recently in attributing the work to Tang Yin. As a poet, his style was distinctive and obviously played a big role in the determination of authorship.
What attracted me to this painting is the way in which it exemplifies many aspects attributed to Chinese painting. The most obvious differences are the use of ideograms (calligraphy) as a poetic device to accompany the scene. Another obvious difference is the vertical orientation and many paintings were in scroll form painted on silk. The bigger and less obvious differences are the often dwarfed human presence against the landscape and a landscape of infinity diminishing background. Both employed here, these techniques give the impression of an overwhelming massiveness to the world. Chinese and many Asian cultures focus less on the individual but rather on the oneness of the universe. A similar sentiment might be found in landscape painting which turned away from religious empowerment of humanity over nature. In this painting, there is a small figure traveling on a road within a world much larger. The diminishing background, where further objects blend into nothingness, add to this ominousness. While this particular example is somewhat devoid of color, that may simply be a by-product of age. Many western art pieces have been restored to display vibrant color. Like statues of ancient Rome and Greece, there may be no way to know what the original color was if any.