Capture the Spirit Beyond Form

Painters depict physical appearances to reveal the essence. Gu Kaizhi(345?-409), a painter of the Eastern Jin dynasty, lays great emphasis on the correspondence between the essence and physical forms: He depicts the appearance of objects in great detail, which embodies their spiritual disposition. He believes this is the highest requirement of painting. He urges painters to capture those outward features that best reveal the spiritual attributes of the objects depicted. This view has exerted a great influence on later artistic endeavors.

A living person will not look ahead and make a bow without any reason, unless there is someone in front of him. Painting shows the essence of something by depicting its physical form and features. Lack of concrete objects can make a painting deviate from its function of portraying images and lose the goal of manifesting an object's innermost spirit.