Muqi: A study of the stylistic transmission of Chan painting from China to Japan

Bo Zhan, Purdue University


The purpose of this thesis is to examine the stylistic transformations of Chinese Chan painting to Japanese Zen painting through the artwork of Muqi, who is the most important Chinese painter in Japanese ink-painting history. In the first chapter, by comparing social backgrounds in China and Japan, I concluded that Muqi’s popularity in Japan was a choice made by the ruling class, and ink painting was promoted to legitimize those new rulers’ reign, while in China, conversely, the change of reign impeded the development of Chan painting but allowed literati painting to flourish. In the second chapter, I propose that Muqi’s style was influenced by literati painters. I also explain the reasons behind the successful Japanese adoption of Muqi’s painting; namely, by associating it with Japanese anesthetics. In the third chapter, by comparing Muqi’s paintings with Japanese paintings composed under their influence, I discovered that although those Japanese painters were not able to resemble the spiritual likeness of Muqi’s painting, they succeeded in simplifying Muqi’s style and freed it from the restriction of traditional Chinese paintings.




Sekine, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Asian Studies|Art history

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