Land of Peach Blossom Spring, detail

An Altogether Different World: The Depiction of Utopias in East Asian Art

 Utopian worlds appear frequently in East Asian art, particularly paintings. These worlds served as the mythical abodes of Daoist immortals and Buddhist deities, as well as the desired sanctuaries of disenfranchised scholars, who wished to renounce worldly affairs. One of the most famous utopian realms is that of the Peach Blossom Springs 桃花源, first described by the famous fifth-century poet, Tao Yuanming. This fabled land was featured in works of art and poems by many later scholars, including the 8th c. poet Li Bo. In one of his works, Li Bo makes a subtle reference to the Land of Peach Blossom Springs, describing it as “An Altogether Different World” (别有天地bie you tian di). This oft-repeated phrase became synonymous with the wonders of this and other utopian realms. This Lafayette exhibition will look at various types of utopian worlds as depicted in Chinese and Japanese paintings.

Curated by Ingrid Furniss, Assistant Professor of Asian Art, Lafayette College

Artwork loaned courtesy of the Philip and Muriel Berman Foundation, with assistance from the Berman Museum, Ursinus College, Collegeville, Pennsylvania.