Landscape of Mount Putuo
On View: Asian Galleries, Southwest, 2nd floor
Peng Wei has painted a ghostly image of a Buddhist pilgrimage site within the unconventional frame of an ancient robe of an elite Han Chinese woman. The painting, swept with images both religious and secular, visually transports us on a spiritual journey toward the precarious peaks of the sacred mountain. Peng’s painting reveals not only her engagement with the female body as a site where representations of identity are inscribed but also her sense of nostalgia toward China’s collective history, in light of the impact of globalization upon its cultural heritage.
Mount Putuo is located on an island southeast of Shanghai, in Zhejiang province. It is one of four sacred mountains in Chinese Buddhism and is strongly associated with Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion, one of the most popular deities. Beginning about the twelfth century in China, Guanyin was depicted as female, unlike the earlier South Asian male prototype of the deity. As a female bodhisattva, Guanyin gained additional powers: relieving suffering, granting children, and acting as a patron of mothers and seafarers.
In this painting, people of different economic classes arrive in both large and small boats, docking at the base of the mountain and climbing up steps leading to the shore. They stroll past restaurants and shops; some pilgrims with backpacks climb steep slopes while elite Confucian scholar-bureaucrats ride horses to reach the temple compounds and a soaring pagoda nestled among the mountain cliffs. In the top right, farmers carry overloaded baskets on their backs as they climb the jagged mountain steps to rice fields surrounded by lush bamboo groves and eucalyptus trees. Rippling mountain peaks and swirling waves of water enhance the turbulence of the spiritual landscape. The figures depicted in the religious narrative are primarily male, of different economic and social classes.
Ink and colors on silk
57 7/8 x 82 11/16 in. (147 x 210 cm)
with cords and knobs: 60 1/4 × 84 in. (153 × 213.4 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Mrs. Roscoe C.E. Brown, Dr. Martin E. Frankel, Mr. and Mrs. Maxime L. Hermanos, and Chi Tiew-lui, by exchange
© Wei Peng
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Peng Wei (Chinese, born 1974). Landscape of Mount Putuo, 2007. Ink and colors on silk, 57 7/8 x 82 11/16 in. (147 x 210 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Roscoe C.E. Brown, Dr. Martin E. Frankel, Mr. and Mrs. Maxime L. Hermanos, and Chi Tiew-lui, by exchange, 2014.55. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: , 2014.55_PS9.jpg)
overall, 2014.55_PS9.jpg., 2019
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