What are the Common Motifs in Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Painting?


Foreword to Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Painting Motifs

Chinese painting draws from a lot of inspiration from nature, religion and history. When examining Chinese ink and wash paintings, one will realize that there are a number of motifs which are repeated over and over again. There is a broad canon of numerous painting subjects – too many to be listed here. The following text shall give you a brief overview about the most important subjects in Chinese ink and wash painting.

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Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Artworks and Masters – Liang Kai (梁楷/ Liang K’ai): Master of Sketches


A Short Biography of  Liang Kai (梁楷/ Liang K’ai)

Liang Kai (c. 1140 – c. 1210), also known as “Madman Liang”, was born in Dongping, Shandong province, and is one of the most famous painters of the Song Dynasty. There is not many information about his life, but it is known that he studied painting with fellow painter Jai Shigu and was ranked Painter-in-Attendance at the Imperial Painting Academy in Hangzhou, where he was awarded the Golden Girdle, an honorable distinction. For reasons unknown, he quit the Academy to study Chan Buddhism. His works are simple, yet powerful paintings, which are thoroughly connected to the principles of Chan Buddhism – spontaneity, individuality and immediacy.

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Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Artworks and Masters – Mu Xi (牧溪/Mu Hsi/Muqi/Fachang): The Monk Painter


A Brief Biography of Mu Xi (牧溪/Mu Hsi/Muqi/Fachang)

Not many information about Mu Xi exists, although it is commonly accepted that he was born in the Sichuan province around 1200 and later lived near the capital Hangzhou. We don’t know anything about his family, childhood or education, except that he was probably tutored by Liang Kai and the abbot Wuzhun Shifan. Mu Xi was a Chan Buddhist monk and lived in the Liutong Temple at the West Lake beginning from 1215. The monastery was without any doubt a place for Japanese pilgrims who came to China to study Chan Buddhism and came into contact with Mu Xi’s works.

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