This small and intimate river panorama, like all hand scroll paintings, is meant to be read from right to left. Accordingly, close inspection will lead the viewer from a pine-shaded country villa on the right along twisted footpaths and open bridges to serene mist-shrouded distant mountains on the left. Usually such hand scrolls were unrolled slowly to be appreciated section by section by a limited audience of usually only one or two people.
Most of the motifs, formal conventions, and overall aesthetics of this small scroll relate to Sung dynasty (960-1280) ink landscape paintings of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Considered one of China's great contributions to world art, Northern Sung (960-1127) ink landscapes achieved a degree of naturalism by the eleventh century that evolved into a more lyrical, impressionistic depiction of nature that typified the Southern Sung (1127-1229). This type of illusionistic painting persisted into the early fourteenth century.