Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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New Classic of Mountains and Seas I

Artist:
Qiu Anxiong (Chinese, born 1972)
Date:
2008
Culture:
China
Medium:
Portfolio of twelve woodblock prints; ink on paper
Dimensions:
Sheet (each): 19 3/4 × 16 1/2 in. (50.2 × 41.9 cm)
Classification:
Prints
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2013
Accession Number:
2013.944a–l
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)

Aotuo
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].

敖駝
阿美利坎洲始有獸。頭扁腹空。背甲似琉璃。眼大如炬。足蹬風輪。不食而飲油。日行千里勝於駿馬。今世人皆馭之。其名曰敖駝。又名奇轍。

Leaf B (3 columns in standard script)

Tangtan
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].

唐坦
西方之土有獸焉。象頭牛身。無足。頭生其背。身被堅甲。腹行甚速。鼻直。可噴火。其名曰唐坦。

Leaf C (3 columns in standard script)

Bitu
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].

必圖
阿美利坎洲有巨鳥焉。無頭。其翼長大。飛於雲上極高之處。不棲他處。棲息必回巢。人罕能見之。空中生卵。入地即生雷。所觸盡為灰燼。其名曰必圖。

Leaf D (3 columns in standard script)

Kuangniu
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].

狂牛
西洋布利騰島有牛焉。食同類之臟腑。數年而狂。人食之亦狂而亡。島民焚之不絕。他國遂不食該國之牛。

Leaf E (2 columns in standard script)

Duoli
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].

多利
西洋布利騰島有獸焉。無父二母而生。壽短。其名曰多利。

Leaf F (2 columns in standard script)

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

聶鼱
中土有鼠。背生人耳。其名曰聶鼱。

Leaf G (2 columns in standard script)

Xuanbei
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]

旋鵯
大荒之西有鳥焉。四翼獨尾。四足獨趾。其趾相連。其聲訇訇如雷。其名曰旋鵯。

Leaf H (3 columns in standard script)

Tingdu
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].

廷獨
北溟之中有巨獸焉。能潛行海底數千里。體黑皮堅。眼生背鰭之端。背有孔。常有小魚躍出。高入雲端。其獸名曰廷獨。

Leaf I (3 columns in standard script)

Pinfu
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]

牝浮
大洋之中有島焉飄流無定。其速甚疾。其頂平坦。方數里。有巨鳥棲息。島上有民數千人。禦鳥以為生。其島名曰牝浮。

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.

亢普四獸
阿美利坎洲始有獸。曰亢普。末厘鼉。窠孛。卯鼠。末厘鼉獨足面方。面能變現幻戲之術。窠孛扁平背有方甲。卯鼠無足。以腹滑行。亢普體方。形似木吶而聰異。能擬人之思維計較。四獸共生。行影不離。其尾相交。今舉世皆飼之以為用。倚之而不能須臾離也。

Leaf K (3 columns in standard script)

Haiyun
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].

駭雲
瀛洲之西有黑色極高之雲。高數萬仞。形似蜃。凡所覆之處皆為焦土。無復生物。見則天下大亂。其名曰駭雲。又名黑蜃。

Leaf L (3 columns in standard script)

Misaier
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].

覓賽爾
西方孑曼國始有魚。體細長。能附於鳥獸之體而行。亦能於空中飛行。無眼。多鰭。善尋物。相觸而毀。見則國有兵。其名曰覓賽爾。


[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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