Documentation: Mei Le and History of Peach Blossom Land
Originating from China and first documented in Peach Blossom Spring (AD 376-396) by Tao Yuanming, the Peach Blossom Land has been imparted with the intensity of beauty of natural landscape. Paintings on the Peach Blossom Land by successors have basically drawn reference from Tao’s script and developed into different forms of articulation. The legendary story and following paintings of it have jointly forged the imagery of Peach Blossom Land, which has since been continuously enriched and extended, literarily and graphically.
From Tao’s consideration, the fundamental thing underlying the Peach Blossom Land’s property of being a fairyland is its complete liberation from politics. Such ideal of the absence of politics, or “non-politicalness”,was so affecting in particular for those undergoing political persecution and badly involved in political conflicts. Fairy of the Blessed Land (Langyuan Xiannv) by Ruan Gao of the Five Dynasties and Comments on the Emperor-Commissioned Hoard of the Goryeo state are two painting examples presenting the fairyland.
As time went by, the Chinese literati culture started to question the essence of Peach Blossom Land, with the most typical representative Su Dongpo (1036-1101). Su did not recognize the Peach Blossom Land as a fairyland and raised evidence arguing the very possibility of its existence in the real world. In his Prefacing the Peach Blossom Land Poem, Su begun with “Anecdotes about the Peach Blossom Land are mostly exaggerating”. The mundane versions of Peach Blossom Land paintings, the Peach Blossom Land Roll by Zhao Boju for example, have combined the landscape of wonderland and idyll.
At the same time, another genre of Peach Blossom Land paintings featuring the plain folk customs and so differentiated from the fairy-style arose, Ma He’s Peach Blossom Land Roll that works out the distance between the artistic setting and the mortal world by depicting a mist-and-cloud-surrounded palace located in the end of painting included. Such pattern of artistic expression has particularly emphasized the awareness of looking little of fame and wealth in the pursuit for the Peach Blossom Land of purity and unsophisticatedness.
The seclusive landscape painting category became a trend among the Chinese southern literati in the 14th century, and started to interact with the motif of Peach Blossom Land, through which the legendariness was weakened while mortalness augmented. Back then, Wang Meng’s Hidden Fishes in the Flowery Streams was considered the “contemporary” version of Tao’s tale.
Due to China’s diplomacy and cultural output, Korea has long before adapted the imagery of Peach Blossom Land to embody their praise and longing for such similar land of ideality. In the 15th century, An Jian referred to the graphic paintings on the Buddhist sutras to create his Dreaming the Peach Blossom Land. In the same period, Wushan (Five Mountains) Zen Monk of Kyoto was notably bridging Chinese and Japanese culture and fit in the complexity of politics and religion. With the typified persona of Tao transformed by Buddhism, the incarnated Peach Blossom Land became part of the Wushan culture and along with following themed paintings cultivated the prevailing of the legend.
When it came to the modern era, the idea of Peach Blossom Land adapted by many intellectuals to elaborate his/her own state of mind, were allegorically a token of utopia.
Over the 20th century, human beings have achieved unprecedented economic and technological accomplishment and acquired brand new understanding on life, space, cosmos, religion and so on, and the notion of Peach Blossom Land has consequently been enabled with multiple layers of understanding. In the present era when transportation and communication are so advanced, people are no longer convinced with the actual existence of any wonderland like Peach Blossom Land, as it won’t be thought through by common logics and human experience.
Extending the clues of thinking of his predecessors and given the current situation of China as well as the global context, Mei Le vests the Peach Blossom Land with an unattempted articulation. With the notion’s evolvement of over one thousand years, what is highlighted in Mei Le’s Peach Blossom Land is its contemporaneity, as it is presented to all in the form of both a surrealistic multi-dimensional space and an energy field, yet still dressed in an elysian ideality. Swimming himself in the river of history of Peach Blossom Land, Mei Le is taking an action of reality, and of simulation.
Reference: The Moving Peach Blossom Land, Landscape Painting in the East Asia World – Shi Shouqian
Translated by Xu Xiaoliang