Pavilions in the Mountain of the Immortals

About this object

Katei worked in a painting style which looked to classical Chinese culture for inspiration and models. The monumental landscape with towering mountains was a key form of Chinese painting from the tenth century onwards, presenting an imaginary and idealized 'landscape of the mind,' a visual field in which the viewer could wander meditatively and leave behind the mental encumbrances of the everyday world. However, such paintings were not a depiction of the natural landscape alone; rather, they present the human's existence within that landscape. So, at the very bottom of the image, leading us into the picture, we see a gentleman-scholar and his attendant on a path along the river, approaching a bridge, about to begin the long journey to the buildings nestled high up in the mountains above them.

The title is known from Katei's finished work on this theme, held in a private collection in Japan. The system of belief known as Daoism believed it possible to acquire magical skills and even immortality through ascetic practices. Such beings were believed to dwell in the mountains. The journey through the landscape can thus also be seen as symbolic of the individual's passage through life, towards a higher realm. The finished painting is largely done in black ink, but with accents of red for the buildings and the figure.
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