The one-corner composition, for which Ma Yuan was famous, positions the scholar figure as intermediate in the corner of the picture plane; he serves as the viewer's alter-ego. There is an established perspective, with the vanishing point located on a low horizon. Characteristically Song is the neat fit of elements into small spaces, like architecture or rocks, to suggest a coherence of space.
Ma Yuan worked in a courtly, polished style to set forth a scene of romantic nostalgia and quietude. The simple country settings of his scholars-in-retreat are ironic in their elegant rusticity, as they choose an artificial view of the world, certainly not the one farmers came into contact with on a daily basis. Ma Yuan's rustic settings were only superficially cut off from society; the gentlemen that inhabit them are still within reach of the refinements of culture, as seen in the starched elegance of their silk robes, servant-attendants, and mannered, effete gestures.
Crisp, symmetrical lines indicate the use of a rounded, vertically held brush (later favored by the literati, as it was closer to that used in writing).