According to one of most distinguished artists and theorists of the 11th-century China, Guo Xi, painted landscapes represent worlds that are accessible to the viewer, but the very idea of entering the painting is, at the same time, completely devoid of mystification. The painter believes that on a mental level a person is able to become part of the painted landscape exactly as the person belongs to the actual world. On the condition, of course, that the landscape has been painted perfectly. However, even amongst masterpieces he highlights landscapes which seem more real — “those in which you may live, and those through which you may wander” (ke ju ke you 可居可遊). One prerequisite for attaining perfection is the painter’s self-discipline and the right attitude; the second requirement is adherence to the technical rules of observation and representation, which are described with great attention by Guo in his treatise Lofty Appeal of Forests and Streams (Linquan gaozhi 林泉高致).
This paper examines the method of landscape observation, as described by Guo Xi, in the attempt to determine the potential role of the Neo-Confucian worldview, which started to spread in the painter’s lifetime, in shaping his views.