Landscape paintings and detailed studies of flowers and leaves were common subjects in Chinese painting. Natural forms were represented, not as direct copies from nature, but as a combination of the appearance of the object and the artist’s emotional response to it. In depicting natural forms, Chinese artists considered themselves unrestricted by visual accuracy or by principles dictating colour, perspective, anatomy, texture or relative size. Nature was seen rather as a source of components from which the artist was able to build their own world. In ‘The Art of Chinese Painting’ (2006), Lin Ci describes the particular attributes associated with certain plants in the paintings dating from the late Song dynasty to the Yuan dynasty (c.1200 to 1368):
‘The plum blossom, orchid, bamboo and chrysanthemum were used as favourite painting topics, and implicitly explored the common accepted characteristics associated with these plants. Orchid and bamboo represented moral loftiness and plum blossom and chrysanthemum represented characteristics of principles and justice.’
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