"Located 2,000 meters above sea level, Mount Changbai is a volcano with a deep caldera. The lake, also named as Tianchi or Heavenly Lake spans across the Chinese-North Korean border, and it holds equal significance in both nations. The igneous rocks in dull hues of ocher, yellow, gray and black are sometimes covered with light green grass. The emerald green surface of the lake does not go well with the depressing colors of the rocks, the scenery is thus not aesthetically pleasing with the lack of luminance and poor color harmony. However, if the emerald is embedded in the midst of white, it will be my ideal heavenly lake!
Mount Changbai was known for its perpetually boundless white. When it snows, the slender trees and the running hills will all be covered in white. Such monotone emphasizes Mount Changbai's undulating nature to present the most refined pure aesthetics. I have to come again when it snows!"
Heavenly Lake in Mount Changbai is one of the few sceneries of Northeastern China the artist has ever painted. During a sketching trip to Mount Changbai in the summer of 1985, the artist was mesmerized by the clear and large blue-green volcanic lake at the very peak of the mountains. The altitude was high, and the water surface reflected the sky, so blue and so still that it shone like a large piece of jade inlaid amongst the landscape. Yet he found the surrounding yellow and grey volcanic rocks unpleasing. A year later, he created his own definition of "Heavenly Lake" on paper. He situated the large teal-green lake at the center of the work, capturing it with thick strokes of blue, which is rarely seen in the artist's works. And instead of portraying the dull earth tone colours in the surroundings, he covered the mountain ranges in white snow. In the painting, Wu Guanzhong made use of the large canvas spanning over 1.8m in width to create a panoramic view of the arctic minimalism, making use of the texture of the Xuan paper to portray the smooth and clean snowy landscape. He then used rhythmic lines and grey washes to delineate the silhouettes of the surrounding mountains and random colourful dots to portray motifs such as scattered trees, breaking the monochromatic austerity of the white snow. To the artist, only the glistening white snow is compatible with the emerald-like lake surface, and by amplifying the clear blue water surface through the stark colour contrast, he creates a tranquil ambience that is most heavenly.
Amongst known works of the artist, this is the only panoramic depiction of Mount Changbai.
When Heavenly Lake in Mount Changbai was first published in 1987 in Rong Bao Zhai and L&F's publications, the image bore only seals. Afterwards, the artist added his signature at the bottom right, and thus it appears in the later publication, "The Complete Works of Wu Guanzhong".
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