The Eight Great Views

The Eight Views of the Xiao and Xiang Rivers were a popular theme in East Asian painting and poetry, a kind of aesthetic bucket list. The theme likely originated during China’s Song Dynasty (960–1279), and tradition holds that the first Chinese painter to paint all eight views together was the scholar-official Song Di (c. 1050–80). The Eight Views are: 

  1. Mountain Market in Clearing Mist
  2. Sails Returning From a Distant Shore
  3. Sunset Over a Fishing Village
  4. Evening Bell from a Mist-shrouded Temple
  5. Night Rain on the Xiao and Xiang Rivers
  6. Wild Geese Descending on a Sandbank
  7. Autumn Moon over Dongting Lake
  8. River and Sky in Evening Snow

Paintings of the Eight Views of Xiao and Xiang were introduced to Japan from China in the late 1200s or 1300s. The two most famous examples were long handscroll paintings by the celebrated Chinese painters Muqi and Yujian. Most of Muqi and Yujian’s handscrolls were later cut up into smaller sections and remounted as hanging scrolls. They have long been some of the most sought-after paintings in Japan.

Japanese painters applied the Eight Views theme to a wide variety of painting formats, including large-scale paintings on folding screens (byōbu) and sliding door panels (fusuma).

The Eight Views became a meme in Japan, inspiring homegrown equivalents like the Eight Views of Lake Biwa and the Eight Views of Kanazawa. The Chinese “River and Sky in Evening Snow” became Evening Snow at Mount Hira, a mountain range on Lake Biwa’s western shore, and Evening Snow on Uchikawa, set in north-central Japan.

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