Chan brain. It is also called gradual

Chan Buddhism a school of Mahayana Buddhism with roots that can be traced back to the Indian practice Dhyana. It puts an emphasis on meditation.

This branch of Buddhism was originated in the Han dynasty, and popularized in the Tang dynasty. Later, it spread to various other Asian countries including Japan and Korea. In Japan it is called Zen, and in Korea Seon. In fact, it became even more influential in Japan than any other branch of Buddhism. The sub-branch of Chan Buddhism that developed in China was actually strongly influenced by Taoism in its ideas.  There are two branches of Chinese Chan Buddhism as well, originated from the debate between Shenxiu and Huineng. The differ mainly on their emphasis of practice.

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The northern school of Chan represented by Shenxiu, meditate with the aim to clean defilements from the brain. It is also called gradual teaching as is believes that enlightenment is a gradual process. On the other hand, is the southern school of Chan is led by Huineng.

They believe that the pure mind cannot be defile, therefore there is no need for cleaning simply realization. This school believes the sudden enlightenment, and emphasizes on emptiness. Both however talks about mindfulness – the ability to concentrate on something, during meditation. After Tang Wuzong’s persecution of Buddism, the northern school eventually disappeared.

But the southern school survived as their masters lived in mountains far away from political centers. Therefore, in later periods Southern Chan is talk about more. What is Chan painting? During the Tang dynasty Chan masters used painting to teach disciples about Buddhism.

They used only water and ink, and painted with a natural and spontaneous style, very much related to Chan believes. This style influenced later literati in both calligraphy and painting until the Qing dynasty. The new literati painting genre that formed from Chan painting is very different from the orthodox court painting practiced by professionals in the imperial academy of painting. In other words, Chan painting is a form of literati painting that expresses Buddhist ideas. Academic painters were highly skill crafts man who achieved spectacular visual effects with color, precision and realistic representation of people and objects. They included minute details and applied shiny gold leaves on their work. These painters worked mostly in the imperial court or sold paintings to wealthy patrons.

Chan painting however, emphasized on simplicity and spontaneity. Painters focused on personal experiences drawing inspiration from daily life, with the aim to achieve inner enlightenment and liberation of the mind from dogma, ceremony and worship. Such ideas strongly influenced Chinese literati’s thought and life, creating ways to peek into the thoughts of literati throughout the history of Chinese ink monochrome paintings.  Wang Wei, both a famous poet and painter, is considered to be the one who first started Chan paintings.

He brought poem into painting and derived poem from paintings at the same time(?????????). This is important to Chan paintings because poem are better at conveying Chan ideas, whereas paintings are better at delivering Chan flavors (???????????) 1. Both Chan masters and literati emphasized on ideas expressed in painting rather than the aesthetics. Like Chan masters, literati painters of Chan painting also aimed to eventually eliminate the disturbances of noisy worldly thoughts to concentrate on one single point of focus. In order to achieve this, some literati actually meditated before they paint, and painted the imagery formed in their mind during the meditation. A famous literati painter that practiced southern Chan – Mi Youren said that “when at the natural moment, the painter is free from iota of worldly matters. Whenever meditating like a monk in a quiet room, he is free from various considerations, but melted together with the empty space (of heaven)”2 This is to say that artists should express their inner feelings and experience in the work, especially emphasizing ideas that had formed already before the painting process.

 The subject of Chan painting rarely contains human figure, more often they tend to include natural sceneries for example mountain, waterfall, or plants. Chan ideas and principles of emptiness, tranquility, calmness nothingness, light and minimalist are all topics often brought up in these paintings. Most typically Chan arts are composed of broad surfaces, making of ink monochrome that suggest the sudden, intuitive, and individual awareness. Although sometimes used to help devotees in moments of illumination, the imagery created is without the aid of either teacher or sacred text. It is also important to note that Chan paintings is not literally representational, but suggestive. Viewers are encouraged to look beneath the surface to find answers.3


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