THE EIGHT VIEWS OF XIAO XIANG
“During the second half of the eleventh century, Song Di 宋迪 (ca. 1015-ca. 1080), an official in the imperial bureaucracy, painted a set of landscapes that came to be called Eight Views of Xiao-Xiang 瀟湘八景. The misty landscapes immediately attracted attention: they were praised for their poetic quality, were lauded in poetry, and for centuries were widely imitated by other painters. Why did they generate such interest? [...]
A reconstruction of Song Di’s political career and an examination of the four-character titles suggests that the Eight Views of Xiao-Xiang was a complex of ‘ideas from poems’ (shiyi 詩意) based on what the Grand Historian Sima Qian 司馬遷 (ca. 145-ca. 85 B.C.) called poetry of grief 一 poetry that was written by men ‘who saw their wishes checked and frustrated.’ It will be argued that in composing the eight titles Song Di was principally influenced by the work of the great poet Du Fu 杜甫 (712-770)” (Murck 113).
“Xiao-Xiang roughly corresponds to modern Hunan province, but Song dynasty scholar-officials would have thought of it as the southern portion of the ancient State of Chu (740-330 B.C.). The Xiao-Xiang region stretches from the marshes of southern Hubei to the mountains of modern northern Guanxi Autonomous Region. There the Xiang River begins its journey some 300 miles north to Lake Dongting. During its passage, the Xiang is fed by hundreds of clear mountain streams and rivers. Today, one of those rivers is known as the Xiao. Before the tenth century, however, xiao was not a name, but an adjective that described the depth and clarity of the Xiang. A sixth-century note on the Xiang River in the Commentary on the Classic of Waterways says, ‘As to xiao, it means clear and deep.’ During the Eastern Han (A.D. 25-220), the river that would become known as the Xiao was named Shen. During the Eastern Jin (317-420) it was renamed Ying, a name that was retained through the Tang dynasty (618-906). Only in the Northern Song did the Ying River officially become the Xiao. The nomenclature indicates that in the Tang, and probably also in the Northern Song, ‘Xiao-Xiang’ would have been understood as ‘the clear, deep Xiang.’”
From about the fifth century A. D. the binome Xiao-Xiang frequently was paired with Dongting, or Grotto Court. The name refers to a cavernous hall which legends claimed lay beneath the gigantic lake. There the daughters of Yao were said to preside in a cave that connected underground to all corners of the  empire. Legends told that the sisters lived on the mountainous island Junshan (or ‘Princess Mountain’) while seeking their husband the sage-king Shun. After learning of his death, they drowned themselves in the Xiang and their spirits discontentedly wandered its shores and roamed the depths of Lake Dongting” (Murck 114-5).
Baker, Jennifer. “The Eight Views: from its origin in the Xiao and Xiang Rivers to Hiroshige.” MA Thesis, University of Canterbury, 2010.
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Murck, Alfreda. “Eight Views of the Xiao and Hsiang Rivers by Wang Hung.” Images of the Mind: Selections from the Edward L. Elliott Family and John B. Elliott Collections of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting. Eds. W. Fong et al. Princeton: The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1984. 213-35.
Murck, Alfreda. “The ‘Eight Views of Xiao-Xiang’ and the Northern Song Culture of Exile.” Journal of Song-Yuan Studies, 26 (1996): 113–144.
Qian, Zhaoming. “Pound’s Seven Lakes Canto.” The Modernist Response to Chinese Art. Pound, Moore, Stevens. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003. 123-140.