Madison Morrison’s Web / Topics
Kant and Chinese Literati Landscape Painting

Kant and Chinese Literati Landscape Painting

Madison Morrison

Tang Yin


The following pages will attempt to illuminate Chinese literati landscape painting, from the Yuan to the Ch’ing (along with three masterpieces from the Northern Sung, which precedes the Yuan), by applying to them the terms of Immanuel Kant’s theories of perception and to some extent his ethics (as laid out principally in his Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason and Critique of Judgment, with attention as well to the Opus posthumum). I.a. and/or I.b. offer the reader an opportunity to review Kant’s terminology, before we begin to apply it in I.c. I will mention other works by Kant as we go along. Our main purpose, however, is not to study Kant but to gain control of his ideas, so that we may apply them to a wholly alien body of work.


In his Kant: A Guide for the Perplexed, T.K. Seung writes, “Kant’s technical terminology is the first obstacle for understanding [him].” Accordingly he offers clarifications and simplifications of Kant’s terminology. I have culled sentences from his chapter, “Theoretical Reason,” rewriting some and combining them (see I.a.). James Luchte, in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, offers more detailed definitions of a few key terms (see I.b.). Frederick Copleston defines important Kantian ideas, and I apply them to painting (see I.c.).


I.a. An Elementary introduction to Kant’s terminology

I.b. An Intermediate introduction to several complex Kantian ideas

I.c. An Advanced introduction to some Kantian ideas

II.a. A digression on The role of motion in physics

II.b. An anthology of quotations on Travel in Chinese Poetry

III.a. A summary of James Luchte’s analysis of Kant

III.b. A summary of Eckart Förster’s analysis of the late Kant

III.c. Förster’s derivation of Kant’s ethics from his late metaphysics

IV. The lives and oeuvres of eight major literati painters


Note: I have chosen this subject in part to offer a grounding for three books of mine, All, Regarding and Exists, based respectively upon dynastic models of Ming, Sung and Yuan literati landscape painting. The index pages for these books include reproductions of paintings by Tung Ch’i-ch’ang (in the Ming), Fan Kuan (in the Sung) and Ni Tsan (in the Yuan).