Dong Yuan

Series: The Royal Collection of Imperial China

Detail of the handscroll

Artist: Dong Yuan
Period: Five Dynasties and Ten States (907–979)
Medium: Handscroll
Dimensions: 284 × 22 cm
Price: $299.95
ISBN: 978-1-4878-0141-0
(Collected by the Liaoning Provincial Museum)


Ink and color on silk; length 50 cm, width 141.5 cm

Through application of coarse brushstrokes and accent dots, Dong Yuan represented the landscapes of the Jiangnan area, vividly recreating the region’s beautiful scenery in his works. The brushstrokes and ink dots not only give a sense of the ridges and peaks in different lighting, but also reveal hidden islets in the middle of rivers and depict lingering mists at the foot of forest-clad mountains.

With just a few brushstrokes, Dong created an unusual effect in that the painting made no sense when viewed closely, yet was vivid and appealing when viewed from a distance. This was an extremely creative technique.

Dong Yuan’s paintings successfully convey the interplay between Jiangnan’s rounded hills and waters. Through the use of ink dots, brush strokes, color, and space, Dong recreated luxuriant tress and grass, floating clouds and dreamy mists, rolling hills, and other features typical of Jiangnan, such as islets, streams, and bridges.


Dong Yuan (934–c. 962) was born in Zhongling (present-day Jinxian County) in Jiangxi Province. He was active in the Southern Tang Kingdom during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Because Dong Yuan had once worked as deputy chief of Beiyuan, he was also referred to as “Dong Beiyuan.” Although he was best known for his landscape paintings, he was also skilled at figure painting, birds, and animals. Dong focused on depicting mountain scenes from the Jiangnan region. He invented and practiced the techniques of coarse brushstrokes and dotted accents. He was one of the group known as the Three Great Painters of the Northern Song Dynasty, alongside Li Cheng and Fan Kuan.