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Chinese, 12th century, male.

Painter, critic.

Song dynasty.

Deng Chun was a scholar-official who came to know painting at a very young age thanks to his family’s extensive art collection. He was the author of the most important history of art of the Southern Song dynasty, the ...


Japanese, 14th – 15th century, male.

Born 1363 or 1370, probably in Yamashiro; died 23 June 1452, in Kyoto.

Monk-painter, poet.

Gukyoku Reisai was a Zen monk-painter who lived at the Kencho-ji in Kamakura and Nanzen-ji in Kyoto, and in later years headed the Tofuku-ji in Kyoto. He was a skilled calligrapher and painter of Buddhist subjects, being particularly interested in the figures of Tenjin and Monju, whom he painted in ink in rapid brushstrokes....


Chinese, 16th century, male.

Painter, poet.

An official, He Liangjun is the author of the Siyouzhai Hualun, a treatise on painting (c. 1530), an unoriginal collection of some 50 disjunctive texts, some taken from other authors, of merely documentary interest.



Japanese, 8th – 9th century, male.

Born 774, in Boyobugaura; died 22 April 835.

Painter, calligrapher, poet.

Kukai was a priest and founder of Shingon (‘true word’) esoteric Buddhism in Japan. He is best known as Kobo Daishi (‘propagator of the Dharma’), his posthumous name. He founded temples in Nara on Mount Koya and the Toji temple complex outside Kyoto. After a lengthy visit to China, Kukai brought back techniques that were to have an important influence on the birth of Japanese art....


Michael Curschmann

The medieval term mappa mundi (also forma mundi, historia/istoire) covers a broad array of maps of the world of which roughly 1100 survive. These have resisted systematic classification, but the clearly dominant type is one that aims at comprehensively symbolistic representation. Its early, schematic form is a disc composed of three continents surrounded and separated from one another by water (“T-O Map”) and associated with the three sons of Noah: Asia (Shem) occupies all of the upper half, Europe (Japhet) to the left and Africa (Ham) to the right share the lower half. Quadripartite cartographic schemes included the antipodes as a fourth continent, but the tripartite model was adopted by the large majority of the more developed world maps in use from the 11th century on and—with important variations—well into the Renaissance. While details were added as available space permitted, the Mediterranean continued to serve as the vertical axis and, with diminishing clarity, the rivers Don and Nile as the horizontal one. The map also continues to be ‘oriented’ towards Asia, where paradise sits at the very top. A circular ocean forms the perimeter and not infrequently the city of Jerusalem constitutes its centre....


Ni Zan  

Chinese, 14th century, male.

Born 1301, in Wuxi (Jiangsu); died 1374.

Painter, calligrapher, poet. Landscapes.

Although the Mongol occupation of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) marked a long period of humiliation in Chinese history, it was also a period when the arts underwent an extraordinary renaissance. This is because many cultured administrators found themselves freed of any administrative or political concerns and, retreating to self-imposed isolation, had enough leisure to cultivate matters of the spirit: calligraphy, poetry and painting. Beyond the reaches of academic imperialism and the official arbiters of good taste, painting became again an activity for refined amateurs and returned to the notion of ...



Japanese, 15th century, male.

Born 1397; died 1471.

Painter, poet, calligrapher.

Noami was a student of Shubun. He painted in the suiboku style (Chinese style), oversaw an inventory of the Ashikaga shogun’s collection of Chinese art and is traditionally known as Japan’s first art historian. He was also master of the tea ceremony, master of the incense and a warrior. He painted landscapes, animals and flowers in a pleasant style. His style was less influenced by the Chinese aesthetic as time went on, but was nevertheless different from the cursive style that his contemporaries tended to adopt. His most talented followers were his son Geiami and his grandson Soami, who together constituted the ...


Su Shi  

Chinese, 11th century, male.

Born 1036, in Meishan (Sichuan); died 1101.

Calligrapher, poet, painter.

Be it literature, politics, poetry, calligraphy or painting, the name of Su Shi was linked with every area of cultural activity of his day. This prestigious figure was one of the most human and appealing in Chinese humanism. A scholar, he was also a politician who shared the struggles of his contemporaries; a high official, but also a refined aesthete who cultivated all the arts, conversed with scholars, monks and courtesans and enjoyed music, all types of literature, calligraphy and painting, of which he was a master....


Chinese, 15th century, male.

Born 1423, in Jiashan, now Ningbo (Zhejiang); died 1495.

Painter, calligrapher, poet.

Yao Shou was the son of Yao Fu, a collector of calligraphy and paintings. He passed the national triennial examinations with the grade jinshi (accepted scholar) in the reign of Emperor Tanshun (...