Wind in Pines Among a Myriad Valleys

Wind in Pines Among a Myriad Valleys

National Treasure

National Treasure Intro

Wind in Pines Among Myriad Valleys is a painting on a hanging silk scroll by Li Tang, a painter during the Northern Song dynasty.

Li Tang was born in the late Northern Song dynasty and served in the Art Academy of both the Huizong Emperor of the Northern Song Dynasty and the Gaozong Emperor of the Southern Song dynasty. Li Tang was gifted at landscape painting, his early paintings used strong strokes to illustrate the magnificent beauty of the mountains and rivers in the north. In his later years, his style became simpler, using an uncomplicated and refined composition, which created a new style of painting in the Southern Song dynasty.

Along with Fan Kuan’s Travelers Among Mountains and Streams and Guo Xi’s Early Spring , this work is known as one of the iconic pieces of the Northern Song monumental landscape tradition. However, in comparison to those two paintings, Wind in Pines Among Myriad Valleys avoids depicting vast and spectacular scenery, instead it uses the scene of a deep valley.

The lack of people or buildings in the painting has the effect of better highlighting the atmosphere of the valley. This painting combines the monumental landscapes of the Northern Song dynasty and the close-up landscape of the Southern Song dynasty. This painting is seen as a masterpiece of landscape painting that combines the essence of the painting styles of the two Song dynasties. It is now in the collection of the National Palace Museum, in addition to being one of the “Trio of National Treasures,” it was also designated as a national treasure in 2012.

National Treasure Appreciation

Although the composition of Wind in Pines Among Myriad Valleys is focused on the central axis, which is typical of Northern Song landscape paintings, it is different because Li Tang made the size of the main mountain appear smaller, and enlarged the size of the pine trees and rocks, which is the close scenery, delicately showing the depth of space.

His arrangement of the clouds rising from behind the valley creates a fine and artistic distinction between the mountains both in the foreground and background. The clusters of pine trees painted in malachite and ink wash are packed densely, and they appear to be rustling in the valley. Ink lines are used to depict the rivers, making them appear like they are flowing downstream and causing countless water splashes against the rocks.

The use of dynamic visual elements such as wind, clouds and flowing water in the composition of Wind in Pines in Thousand Valleys make it more vivid.

The main peak is placed at the center of the painting, and the left and right spaces are unevenly filled with the peaks of clouds. The mountain is composed of slanting rocks. A painting technique known as “axe-cut texture stroke” is used to provide texture to the rocks, where different shades of green are applied on top of the lines to create a sense of ruggedness.

As for the clouds on the mountainside, Li Tang used the technique of leaving blank space around the dense pine forest to depict the rolling clouds and mist, which gives a sense of space between the foreground and the middle ground, as well as easing the oppressive feeling of the precipitous main peak.

Li Tang’s signature is embedded on the mountain in the distance and reads “Painted by Li Tang of Heyang in the spring of the ‘Jiachen’ year (1124) of the Xuanhe Reign of the Great Song.”

This inscription shows that Li Tang was, and the painting was completed in 1124 during the reign of Emperor Xuanhe, also known as the Huizhong Emperor, of the Song dynasty. Li Tang would have already been 76 years old, but his brushwork was still strong and powerful.

3 years later, the Northern Song dynasty fell, and the Southern Song dynasty retreated to the south, where Li Tang also migrated,his painting style transformed into one characterized by vigorous brushwork and a bold, concise approach. This had a profound influence on the style of landscape painting during the Southern Song dynasty.

The precipitousness of the mountains and cliffs is drawn with the powerful “axe-cut texture stroke” technique.

Li Tang used the side edge of the brush dipped in thick ink and drew quickly. The places where the brush touched the painting have the effect that looks like an axe chopping. Later generations called this painting technique “axe-cut texture stroke.”

In the mountain passes on both sides there are trickling springs and waterfalls that form layers of turbulent water flowing down the descending terrain.

Li Tang used vivid brushstrokes to shape the water so the sound of rushing water can be heard, and the pine trees being blown in the wind make a rustling sound.

In the mountains and valleys, the beams of sunlight intertwine with the green shades of the forest among the rocks. The scene shows the liveliness of the return of spring.

Li Tang first used ink lines to draw the outline of the tree trunks, and then used brown ocher to bring out the semi-circular knots and texture of the bark, accurately presenting the three-dimensional effect of the pine trees. The pine needles are drawn faithfully in terms of the length and shape.

Understanding seals


    1. Ni Tsaichin, “Divine Paintings: The National Palace Museum’s Trio of National Treasures,” Art & Collection, 174, 2007, pp. 80-85.
    2. Yu Hui, On Chinese Traditional Landscape Painting in and after Li Tang’s Times, The National Palace Quarterly, 30:4, 2013, pp. 43-103.
    3. Li Peishi, “The Glory and Clues Behind Seals: Research on the Three Compilations and Seals of the Shiqu Baoji. Art & Collection, No. 208: 2010, pp. 84-93.
    4. Chen Yun-Ru and He Yan-Chiuan, Grand View: Special Exhibition of Northern Sung Painting and Calligraphy, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2006.
    5. Lin Boheng, The Essential Collection of the National Palace Museum: Paintings, Books and Documents, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2006.
    6. Cai Meifen, Splendid Treasures: A Hundred Masterpieces of the National Palace Museum on Parade, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2011.2
    7. Liu Fang-ju, Pu Li-An and Chen Yun-Ru, National Treasures of the Museum: Masterpiece Paintings by Fan Kuan, Guo Xi and Li Tang, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 2021.


The National Palace Museum (NPM) was established on October 10, 1925, when there were tens of thousands of paintings and pieces of calligraphy in the collection of the Qing court, which could be seen in the Forbidden City in Beijing. After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937, the NPM moved its cultural relics to the south of China. The war ended in 1945, however in 1948, because of the ongoing civil war between the Kuomintang (KMT) and Communist Party, the KMT moved the artifacts in the NPM to Taiwan, then temporarily placed them in Beigou, Wufeng, Taichung. Later, a new museum in Waishuangxi, Taipei, started to be built. The new building was completed in August 1965 and formally opened to the public in November. In December 2015, the Southern Branch of the National Palace Museum in Chiayi officially opened.

The NPM’s collection of artifacts were inherited from the Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing courts. Later, the artifacts transported to Taiwan from the Preparatory Department of the National Central Museum were incorporated into the NPM’s collection. The NPM houses hundreds of thousands of collected and acquired artifacts. These have gradually been digitized and are available on the “National Palace Digital Archive.” Some digital image files of artifacts are available on the “Open Data ” and can be used by the public under a Creative Commons license.