We study a composition by Wang Yuanqi (王原祁)  (1642-1715).

Wang Yuanqi (王原祁) landscape album leaf
Wang Yuanqi (王原祁) landscape album leaf


The background of the painting is not high mountains but a distant shore. This gives an impression a wide-plain field of vision (平遠景像).

The painting can be divided into two parts – the near-by shore and the distant shore. The near-by shore with pine trees, willow trees and trees with little foliage is the main subject of the painting. Between the near-by shore and the distant shore lies the area of white paper – the void. The void is not unfinished, empty, or yet-to-be-filled-up space. The void represents the water in a stream or pond. The artist inspires the viewers to think and to imagine. Similarly the sky is also left empty. The two shores echo with each other.

The painting can be copied in a few stages.

Stage 1

We start the painting by sketching the tree trunks of the foreground in pale grey ink. More branches are added using darker grey ink. Discontinued darker lines are added to the tree trunk to make the trees look sturdy and strong.

The pine needles (松針) are drawn in group of 5 tiny strokes with the ends converging to a single point at the bottom. Then more groups of 5 tiny strokes are drawn and each group can touch and coincide partially with one another to form the foliage of the pine tree.

The willow leaves hang vertically downward. They can be drawn in a group of 3 downward strokes as demonstrated in the diagram.

Stage 1
Stage 1


Stage 2

After the trees have been drawn, we can start sketching the rocks in the foreground, the near-by shore. The rocks come in different sizes, with bigger ones surrounding the smaller ones. A hut can be added. Long grasses can be added to the back of the hut to give the hut more protection and ‘privacy’.

Stage 2
Stage 2


Stage 3

The rocks are shaded with bent ribbon ts’un (cūn)(texture strokes) 折帶皴. The ts’un needed to be done in several layers. Use pale grey ink in the 1st layer. Let it dry and add the 2nd layer. Darker grey ink may be used in the 2nd layer. Wait until it dries, add the 3rd layer and so on until the desired tone is achieved. Sometimes subsequent layers can be added before the previous layer has dried. Then the layers can blended well with one another. Artists are strongly recommended to explore other ways for doing the ts’un.

Stage 3
Stage 3


Stage 4

Sketch the background of the distant shore and gently put the ts’un (皴) with a paler tone. Then the painting is completed.

Stage 4
Stage 4


Stage 5 (optional)

The painting can be coloured with light ochre and a few other pale colours. Shan shui painting mainly coloured with pale ochre is known as qiǎn jiàng (淺絳) painting. In this tutorial, I would like to introduce 4 most common colours – brown, blue, orange and yellow – which are also commonly used for autumn scene. Other colours will be introduced in future tutorials.

brown pigment, blue pigment
brown pigment, blue pigment
organge pigment, yellow pigment
orange pigment, yellow pigment


Ochre 赭石 (brown) is a dye made from minerals, an opaque colour.

Anthocyanin 花青 (blue) is a dye made from plant material, a transparent dye.

Cinnabar orange red 朱磦 (orange) is a dye made from minerals, an opaque colour. The dye is a lead compound which is harmful. It should be handled with care.

Gamboge 藤黃 (yellow) is a dye made from plant material, a transparent dye. It is also used as a purgative. It should be handled with care.

The ochre, anthocyanin and cinnabar orange red pigment have been slightly mixed with gum arabic for adhesion and flexibility. They are then dried before being put into pans. Those pans are made Jiang Si Xu Tang of Suzhou 蘇州姜思序堂. They are quite expensive. The gamboge comes in the shape of a cake. It is quite rare nowadays and also very expensive.

To get paint from a pan, use a damp brush to pick up a little colour and then put it on the palette. Add more water or mix with other colours. We can also work directly from the pan, but be careful not to contaminate it with other colours. The pigments can also be purchased in tubes and they are much cheaper.

The finished work with the inscription of the date (in the First Lunar Month of 2015 乙未元月 and my name 蕭燿漢 and 2 small red seals.
The finished work with the inscription of the date (in the First Lunar Month of 2015 乙未元月) , this is a copy of Wang Yuanqi landscape album leaf, my name 蕭燿漢 and 2 small red seals of my name and my alias 倬雲.


The Artist

Wang Yuanqi (王原祁) (1642-1715) was a Chinese painter of the Qing Dynasty. Wang was born in Jiangsu (江蘇) province and tutored in painting by his grandfather Wang Shimin (王時敏) (1592–1680). His style name was ‘Mao-ching ‘( 茂京) and his alias was ‘ Lu-t’ai’ (麓台). Wang is a member of the Four Wangs (四王), four great artists of the Qing Dynasty. He followed the style of Huang Gongwang (黃公望). Wang was famous with the use of ocher pigment.


Acknowledgements :

I would like to thank Mr Ip, my teacher and my mentor, for giving me his great collections of fine pigments which are quite rare nowadays.


Further readings :









3 thoughts on “Shan shui (山水) Painting Tutorial 2

  1. Dear Patrick,

    Your own presence and the patient, nurturing manner in which you illustrate these fine skills radiate the regal qualities of Wen Ren. I love to come and observe your teaching one day.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dorothy, thank you very much. The painting was in the style of Ni Zan.

    Ni Zan ( 倪瓚) (1301–1374) was a great artist during the Yuan and early Ming periods. He was born into a wealthy family but he distributed all of his possessions to his friends and moved into a houseboat. Ni Zan’s landscapes after 1345 all take very much the same form: ink-monochrome paintings of widely separated riverbanks and foreground trees silhouetted against the expanse of water. His sparse landscapes never represent people.
    Further reading : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ni_Zan


  3. Patrick, your tutorial seems so simple but it’s elegance is in its simplicity.

    Wonderfully done!

    It really inspires me to try although I have no experience in Shan Shui painting

    Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

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