In China the appreciation of Taihu rocks has a long history. In the Chinese garden, Taihu rocks play the role of sculpture in Western gardens. Taihu rocks are essential elements of Chinese painting and literature. The Taihu rock takes its name from Lake Tai, about one hundred and twenty miles from Nanjing by water transport, a place famed for its rocks for about a thousand years. The typical Taihu rocks are hard and glossy, with strange configurations of hollow 'eyes' and twisting peaks. They have a net of raised patterns all over, their surfaces covered with small cavities, worn by the action of wind and waves. The rocks may be produced in the waters of the lake. Du Wan, a rock connoisseur of the twelfth century wrote in 'Yunlin shipu' ('Stone catalogue of the cloudy forest') about how people collected the Taihu rock in his time: "Those who harvest these stones dive for them, mallet and chisel in hand. A very toilsome business. When a fine specimen has been cut free, it is bound with huge ropes and then winched up into a large boat." But the same type of rocks may also be found underground.
The Chinese interest in rocks has been closely associated with the cosmological idea and the thought of immortality. A rock with its eroded surface and twisted peaks is a symbol of the cosmic mountain that functions as an intermediary realm between heaven and this world. It serves as a symbolic link between man and the realm of the spirits.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, October 2003.
Where the work was made
Shown in 1 exhibition
Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–13 Mar 2016