Time in Chinese Landscape Painting
THE CONCEPT OF TIME IN CHINESE LANDSCAPE PAINTING: 1978
"The Tao which can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao; the name which can be uttered is not its eternal name."
If time is, as Plato asserted, the moving image of eternity, then the inability of that image to achieve closer has lead to two fundamentally different attitudes: One is to stop the flow in order to capture the image of eternity. This approach, however, results in an image frozen in time. It is the inevitable consequence of the analytic attitude, which seeks to separate the perceiver from the perceived. Though this posture serves as the foundation to the achievements of Western science, it stands in the way of a more sympathetic relationship between the perceiver and the perceived that is necessary in art. Because Chinese thought accepted the limitations of consciousness, it did not seek this separation. Since becoming was considered to be a part of being, they sought to create an art in harmony with becoming. For the Chinese, art was not a vehicle for depiction, but a vehicle of moods. This contrast between the East and the West highlights the classic problem of being and becoming. Western thought, embedded in Neo-Platonism, articulated the problem as a dialectic between realities and appearances. This dialectic lead, inevitably, to the desire to freeze ever-changing appearances to a permanent state of reality. For the Chinese, since being and becoming were not opposites, but interpenetrating polarities. The path to being was not through the rejection of becoming but through participation with its rhythmic unfolding. To become is to dance the dance of creation.