In the palace of the Emperor Ming Hwang, the walls were of great size, and upon one of these the Emperor ordered Wu Tao-tzu to paint a landscape. The artist prepared his materials, and concealing the wall with curtains commenced his work. After a little while he drew aside the veil, and there lay a glorious scene, with mountains, forests, clouds, men, birds, and all things as in nature. While the Emperor gazed on it with admiration, Wu Tao-tzu, pointing to a certain part of the picture, said, “Behold this temple grotto at the foot of the mountain — within it dwells a spirit.” He clapped his hands and the gate of the cave suddenly opened. “The interior is beautiful beyond conception,” continued the artist. “Permit me to show the way, that Your Imperial Majesty may behold the marvels it contains.” He passed within and turned round, beckoning his patron to follow, but in a moment the gateway closed, and before the amazed ruler could advance a step, the whole scene faded away, leaving the wall white as before the contact of the painter’s brush. And Wu Tao-tzu was never seen again.
Slightly adapted from the version quoted by Herbert A. Giles in An Introduction to the History of Chinese Pictorial Art from Pictorial Arts of Japan by William Anderson (1842–1900)
Wu Tao-Tzu flourished c. 720–c. 760