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Lecture: Collected Stones: The Essence of the Chinese Landscape with Robert D. Mowry, PhD
Rocks appealed to the scholars’ love of mountains and, when placed in a garden, brought the mountains into an urban setting. In the scholar’s study, collected rocks sometimes served as brushrests or inkstones, but most served as vehicles for contemplation, appreciated more for their aesthetic merits than for their functional possibilities. Like a landscape painting, the rock represented a microcosm of the universe on which the scholar could meditate within the confines of garden or studio. More than anything else, however, it was the abstract, formal qualities of the rocks that appealed to the Chinese literati. In fact, the Chinese taste for rocks might be compared to the modern Western interest in abstract sculpture and painting; although one can read meaning into both rocks and abstract works, each is ultimately appreciated for the beauty of its form and texture. More than anything else, collected rocks reveal that the appreciation of sculptural form in the later dynastic era of China was as sophisticated as anywhere else in the world.