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1. The representation of plants: Engravings and paintings

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Chapter Summary

One must take for granted that Chinese painters of the past were able to represent natural objects accurately from a modern point of view; Song dynasty paintings of plants and animals attest to that. Yet figures found in texts on medicinal products (bencao) of the same period appear to be less precise. Reflecting on the various images of the wutong and of the wintersweet, it is possible to conclude that paintings can give a deeper feeling of a living plant. Pictures engraved in technical books are generally more static. It is remarkable that a comparison of plant motifs painted on Chinese porcelain of the Ming and Qing periods with the much later images of plants in the 1885 edition of the Bencao gangmu reveals a great similarity, and has allowed Regina Krahl to give proper botanical identifications.

Keywords: Bencao gangmu; Chinese painters; Ming period; Qing period; Song dynasty paintings; wintersweet; wutong



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