.ITA | ENG | ESP | DEU | FRA  

Gianluca Magi
Home Bio Biblio Oriental School Game of the Hero Video News



«What the worm considers the end of the world,
for the rest of the world it is a butterfly»

- Zhuangzi [Chuang tzu]



Taoism’s essence is condensed in this roll painted by the painter Zhou Chen (approx. 1470-approx.1535): the valorisation of the single man rather than society and his being an integral part of nature rather than the universe central element. The ideal of the Taoist wise man was to live a simple and contemplative life, in harmony with nature. Secluded in a mountain retreat (recurrent theme in the Chinese art), the Taoist man of letters or artist devoted himself to sound tao value, the unifying, indescribable principle of the thousand creatures searching the liberation from any hobble of the phenomenal world, in order to set out on the journey of unity with the universe.

In this painting, Zhou Chen, inside his solitary refuge, dreams of being an immortal that flies high in the sky. Immortality, one of the most cherished Taoism themes, is conceived as the natural extension of life on earth (longevity), to be reached through meditative and dietetic techniques, respiratory hygiene, sexual and alchemic practices, to eliminate heavy and stagnant qi and reinforcing and protecting pure and refined qi 氣. Improving himself, the Taoist could live «as long as Heaven and Earth», meaning that man became the tao and the tao became the man. In this self-fulfilling process, the Taoist could free himself from death’s fear and reach a condition of serene detachment from things.

The concept of immortality (xian 仙, word that is etymologically formed by ‘man’ and ‘mountain’) reigns in the whole scene. The mountains, capped with clouds, symbol of stability, inextinguishable condition and cosmic order, covered in cosmology the same role that the emperor had in the human society.
Pines, the favourite trees of the Chinese painting and the more often painted ones, symbolize longevity and life, since they resist to cold weather and they do not lose their needles.      

The iridescent nature of the mountain landscape, the empty space that licks the summits, the rocks and the vegetation profiles, the wind, ridden by the immortal, tell one of the Taoism main concepts: energy, the vital breath (qi 氣) permeates the macrocosm (and it shows itself, for example, in the landscape qi) and the microcosm (and it shows itself, for example, in the individual breath that, going through men’s throat, produces different and relative convictions and points of view, which are never considered absolute truths by the wise man, free from egoistic aims).

[tratto dal mio libro, Sanjiao. I tre pilastri della sapienza (Sanjiao. The Three pillars of Wisdom), Vicenza 2006].
Dipinto Zhou Chen

Filosofia Comparativa
Psicologia Transpersonale

Mail to Gianluca Magi