LOS ANGELES—In ancient China strange and marvelous stones were valued for their beauty and as reflections of the hidden structures underlying the universe. Stones were seen as fluid and dynamic, constantly changing, and capable of magical transformations. Certain stones were believed to be able to speak, to emit clouds and rain, to predict the weather, to move about of their own accord, and to heal. Fantastic stones were perceived as mountains in miniature, imbued with the same primordial energies that made up peaks sacred to both Daoist and Buddhist traditions. Like the human body, stones were believed to be born, to live, and to die, just as were mountains themselves.
The exhibition focuses on the most extraordinary painting of a stone ever created in China: Wu Bin’s Ten Views of a Lingbi Stone (1610), a Ming dynasty handscroll comprising 10 separate views of a single stone from the famous site of Lingbi, Anhui Province. Also including superb examples of Lingbi and Taihu stones and contemporary Chinese ink paintings depicting stones, this exhibition explores the history of collecting strange stones in China and the relationship between stones, Daoist cosmology, and classical Chinese poetry.
“This exhibition is an exciting opportunity to examine the 2,000-year practice of collecting strange stones (guai shi) in China,” says Little. “It will be the first exhibition of its kind in Los Angeles to explore the significance of stones in China and their centrality in Chinese culture.”