yǐ xínɡ mèi dào 以形媚道
Natural Shapes Adapting to Dao
Mountains and rivers accord with Dao by way of their shapes. Zong Bing(375-443), a painter of the Southern Song Dynasty, in his “On the Creation of Landscape Paintings” expanded on a saying by Confucius – “A virtuous man loves mountains and a wise man loves water.” Zong held that mountains and rivers not only displayed their natural splendor to humanity, but also demonstrated the natural law of changes. Therefore, they were loved by men of virtue. This term shows the aesthetic view of people in the period of the Six Dynasties.
Confucius said, “A wise man loves water, a virtuous man loves mountains. A wise man knows how to adapt himself to the environment; a virtuous man stays peaceful in mind. A wise man is happy; a virtuous man enjoys longevity.” (The Analects)
Sages follow Dao with their spirit. Men of virtue and talent may comprehend and practice Dao. Mountains and rivers conform to Dao through their natural shapes. That is why they are loved by benevolent people. Isn’t this subtle and profound? (Zong Bin: On the Creation of Landscape Paintings)