Travelers Among Mountains and Streams

Fan KuanSong Dynasty (10th Century) - Song Dynasty (Early 11th Century)

National Palace Museum

National Palace Museum
Taipei, Taiwan

Fan Kuan, a native of Hua-yüan (modern Yao-hsien) in Shensi province, often traveled the area between the capital and Loyang. Although he was known for his magnanimous character, straightforward personality, and fondness of drink and the Tao, he is famous now for his landscape painting. In his early study of painting, he followed the style of the Shantung artist Li Ch'eng (919-967). Later, however, he came to realize that if he really wanted to portray the land, he had to take Nature as his teacher rather than other artists or their works. After all, a personal landscape exists in nature and in the mind. Fan K'uan thereupon went to Mt. Hua and secluded himself among the forests and mountains, devoting himself to observing the effects of atmospheric, weather, and seasonal changes on the scenery. Contemporaries thereupon praised him for being able to commune with the mountains. This masterpiece is a testament to his skills and ideas in landscape painting. The clusters of vegetation at the top of the tall mountain here are actually distant forests clinging to a precarious perches. Running along the central axis of the scroll, the central mountain dominates the scene in a classic example of Northern Song monumental landscape painting. The rooftops of a building complex stand out in the right middleground. By the cluster of rocks in the right foreground is a path on which a mule train makes its way. A cascade as slender as silk falls from the heights above, culminating in the stream rushing down in eddies towards the foreground. From near to far, Fan Kuan has described with realistic detail the solemn grandeur of a majestic landscape. Fan Kuan rendered the mountains and slopes with jagged outline strokes and filled them with brush dabs resembling raindrops--techniques that highlight the monumental and eternal features of the mountains. To the right of the mule train, among the leaves, is the signature of Fan Kuan, a final touch by an artist to epitomize the insignificance of humans (including himself) compared to Nature.


  • Title: Travelers Among Mountains and Streams
  • Creator: Fan Kuan
  • Creator Lifespan: Sung Dynasty (10th Century) - Sung Dynasty (Early 11th Century)
  • Creator Nationality: China
  • Creator Gender: Male
  • Creator Birth Place: Yao-hsien in Shensi province
  • Date Created: Song Dynasty (10th Century) - Song Dynasty (Early 11th Century)
  • Physical Dimensions: w1033 x h2063 cm
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: National Palace Museum, Taipei City, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
  • External Link: National Palace Museum, Taipei City, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

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