[ Wu Daoxuan, Wu Tao-hsüan ; Wu Tao-tzu ]
(b Yangzhe [modern Yu xian, Henan Province];
Chinese painter . Later known as Wu Daoxuan, he is a legendary figure said to have depicted human beings, landscapes, architecture, Buddhist deities, demons, birds and animals. Reportedly, he derived his inspiration from wine and had a mercurial, responsive brushstyle, producing breathtaking vistas of natural scenery and figures across vast areas of temple wall.
Hearing of his extraordinary talents, the Emperor Xuanzong (Minghuang; reg 712–56) summoned Wu to his palace at Chang’an (modern Xi’an). Between 742 and 755 the emperor dispatched Wu to the Jialing River in Sichuan Province to paint the scenery. On his return, Wu stated, ‘I have made no draft, but have committed all to memory.’ He proceeded to paint the walls of the hall known as the Datong dian with 300 or more li (c. 150 km) of Jialing River scenery in a single day. Five dragons in the Inner Hall, painted by Wu on another occasion, supposedly had scales so lifelike that each time it was about to rain, they emitted misty vapours (the dragon symbolized imperial power over rain and irrigation). Contemporary accounts report that Wu covered 300–400 wall surfaces in Buddhist and Daoist temples in the two Tang-dynasty (...