Art/ Collection/ Art Object

New Classic of Mountains and Seas I

Qiu Anxiong (Chinese, born 1972)
Portfolio of twelve woodblock prints; ink on paper
Sheet (each): 19 3/4 × 16 1/2 in. (50.2 × 41.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2013
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© Qiu Anxiong
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 216
Inspired by Classic of Mountains and Seas (Shanhaijing), an ancient encyclopedic cosmography that described a myriad of strange or imaginary creatures, Qiu began to develop his New Classic bestiary around 2004 in a series of designs that simulate a traditional woodblock-printed text with accompanying illustrations. Presenting modern machines and weapons as fantastic beasts, each image bears a title with the creature’s name—a thinly veiled phonetic equivalent of its name in English—and an enumeration of its salient characteristics. Qiu’s designs also appeared in his 2006 video of the same title.
Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions (printed)[1]

Leaf A (3 columns in standard script)

There is a kind of beast that originated on the American continent. It has a flat head and an empty belly. Its back has a glass-like surface; its eyes are as large as torches. It moves on wind-driven wheels. It does not eat, but drinks oil instead. It runs one thousand li in a single day, superior to the finest steeds. Nowadays, everyone rides them. It is called “Aotuo” [Auto], or “Qiche” [car in Chinese].


Leaf B (3 columns in standard script)

There is a kind of beast in the western lands with the head of an elephant and the body of a bull. It has no feet. Its head grows out of its back; its body is covered in armor-like scales. It moves rapidly on its belly. Its straight snout can emit fire. It is called “Tangtan” [Tank].


Leaf C (3 columns in standard script)

On the American continent there is a kind of giant bird with no head. Its wings are long and large, suitable for flying high above the clouds. It does not rest anywhere but its nest. Rarely can people see it. It lays eggs in the sky, which strike thunders when hitting the ground and turn everything they touch into ashes. It is called “Bitu” [B-2].


Leaf D (3 columns in standard script)

There is a kind of cow in the British Isles in the Western Ocean. It feeds on the internal organs of its own kind and turns mad in a few years. Humans who eat them likewise lose their sanity and die. The islanders cannot incinerate them fast enough. Other kingdoms have therefore stopped consuming the beef from that land. It is called “Kuangniu” [Mad Cow].


Leaf E (2 columns in standard script)

On the British Isles in the Western Ocean there is a beast born of two mothers without a father. Its life span is short. It is called “Duoli” [Dolly the sheep].


Leaf F (2 columns in standard script)

On the Central Plains there is a mouse with a human ear grown on its back. It is called “Niejing” [Eared mouse].[2]


Leaf G (2 columns in standard script)

To the west of the great wasteland there is a kind of bird with four wings and a tail. A single tow grows on each of its four feet that are connected to one another. It makes a loud sound like thunder. It is called “Xuanbei” [Whirlybird helicopter].[3]


Leaf H (3 columns in standard script)

There is a huge beast in the dark northern sea. It can swim deep down across the ocean floor for thousands of miles. It has a black body with hard skin. Its eyes grow on the tip of its back fin. There is a hole on its back, from which small fish often leap out into the high clouds. It is called “Tingdu” [Trident submarine].


Leaf I (3 columns in standard script)

In the vast ocean there is an island that drifts constantly at high speed. It has a flat top that measures several square li. Perched upon it are giant birds. There are several thousand of inhabitants on the island, who take charge of the birds for a living. The island is called “Pinfu” [Plane carrier].[4]


Leaf J (5 columns in standard script)

Kangpu sishou
There are four beasts that originated on the American continent, named Kangpu, Molituo, Kebo and Maoshu. The Molituo [monitor] has a square face and rests on one foot; its face can magically change appearance. The Kebo [keyboard] is flat with square scales on its back. The Maoshu [mouse] has no feet, but slides around on its belly. The Kangpu [computer] has a square body. It looks dumb but is actually highly intelligent. It can simulate human thoughts and computing ability. The four beasts live closely together, connected by the tail. Today everyone raises them for personal use, and relies on them as something that cannot be parted from for even a moment.


Leaf K (3 columns in standard script)

To the west of the isle of Ying is a black cloud that rises tens of thousands of sword-lengths high in the shape of a dragon. Any place touched by it becomes a scorched land that can no longer sustain life. When it appears, chaos prevails the world. It is called “Haiyun” [Hydrogen cloud] or “Heishen” [Black dragon].


Leaf L (3 columns in standard script)

The western kingdom of Jieman [Germany] was first to have this species of fish. It has a slim, elongated body. It can move around by attaching itself to birds and beasts. It can also fly in the air. Eyeless with multiple fins, it excels in seeking out targets and destroying them on contact. The sight of them is an omen of war. It is called Misaier [Missile].


[1] Translations from Department records.

[2] The character nie is composed of three small characters for ear in Chinese.

[3] “Xuanbei” literally means a swirling bird.

[4] The character pin refers to the female gender, and fu to floating. The Chinese term for plane carrier, hangkong mujian, literally means “mother ship for airplanes.”
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