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Shen Zhou Poet On A Mountaintop Analysis Essay

Shen Zhou, Poet on a Mountain Top,

c.1496, 15 1/4" x 23 3/4",

album leaf mounted as a handscroll,

the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art,

Kansas City, MO

Summoned from the chapters in history, Shen Zhou’s Poet on a Mountain Top is yet another example that accounts for the Posthumanisim’s antique employment, even if the term was yet to be defined. A celebrated Ming dynasty (1368~1644) scholar-official and artist, Shen Zhou (1427~1509) executed his most famous landscape painting of the Poet on a Mountain Top in 1496 that embodied several distinctive concepts in Posthumanisim, such as the perspective that undermines Anthropocentrism, the transience of physicality and construction of multiple universes.

Designed to host a stylized scene of Nature, the genre of the Chinese landscape paintings were perpetuated by the scholar-officials, who were also amateur painters themselves, to withdraw from the buzzing secular life in order to cultivate one’s character and to engage with the natural world in repose. In other words, both the creator and the audience viewed the Nature as an integral constituent of humanity, a partner in mankind’s intellectual and spiritual evolution, and not as an object for human conquest or exploitation. The relationship between Nature and a human established by this cultured league of men was that of a reciprocal, not of a hierarchical model. Men were part of the Nature, as alluded by the minuscule representation of the scholar within the grandioso of his environment; humanity was not the center of the World, but a part of it.

As the Poet on the Mountain Top undermines the anthropocentric mythology of the mankind as a center of the natural order, the monochrome scroll advances to address the topics of transient physicality and multiple universes. Executed to offer the audience a visual escape from their confines, the landscape painting appropriated the viewer into a different dimension of an idealized rural environment set apart from the brimming Ming dynasty’s metropolis. The contrasting universe was constructed by the painter to invite the viewers for retrospection and repose. Hence the physicality of a person’s body was confounded as one travelled through the mountains composed from the hands of Shen Zhou. With the consensus from the participant, this classical version of a pictorial matrix illustrates one of the earliest applications of posthumansitic multiplicities.

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DescriptionPoet on a Mountaintop.jpg
English: Poet on a Mountaintop

Shen Zhou (沈周, 1427-1509), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Album leaf, ink on paper, 38.7 x 60.3 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri
AuthorShen Zhou (沈周, 1427-1509), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)


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