In 1127 the Song northern capital was sacked by the Jurched Jin; Emperor Huizong and members of his family were carried off, only to die later in captivity. The emperor’s ninth son, who was proclaimed Emperor Gaozong (r. 1127–62), escaped and established the Southern Song court at Lin‘an (Hangzhou) in 1138.
As emperor, Gaozong sponsored a number of painting and calligraphy projects that extolled the virtues and legitimacy of his “dynastic revival.” The largest of these undertakings was illustrating the more than three hundred poems of the Classic of Poetry, a work traditionally believed to have been compiled by Confucius (551–479 B.C.). Courtly Odes, Beginning with “Wild Geese,” from the Xiaoya section of the Classic, is part of this ambitious program.
The text of each poem is written in Gaozong’s regular-script style, probably by a scribe or consort. The accompanying illustrations are the work of Ma Hezhi, a court artist known for his calligrphic “orchid-leaf” brush line, which clearly derived from the scholar-painting tradition of Li Gonglin (ca. 1049–1106). Ma’s deliberately archaistic and simplified drawing style is perfectly in keeping with the great antiquity of the Classic.
Inscription: No artist's inscription, signature or seal
Other inscriptions on painting
Unidentified artist in the style of the Song emperor Gaozong (r. 1127–1162), 57 columns in standard script, undated:
1. Wild Geese (12 columns in standard script) The wild geese are flying; Suk, suk go their wings. The soldiers are on the march; Painfully they struggle through the wilds. In dire extremity are the strong men; Sad are their wives, left all alone.
The wild geese are flying; They have lighted in the middle of the marsh. The soldiers are walling a fort; The hundred cubits have all risen. Though they struggle so painfully, At last they are safely housed.
The wild geese are flying; Dolefully they cry their discontent. But these were wise men Who urged us in our toil, And those were foolish men Who urged us to make mischief and rebel.
Unsullied the white colt Eating the young shoots of my stackyard. Keep it tethered, keep it tied All day long. The man whom I love Here makes holiday.
Unsullied the white colt Eating the bean leaves of my stackyard. Keep it tethered, keep it tied All night long. The man whom I love Is here, a lucky guest.
Unsullied the white colt That came so swiftly. Like a duke, like a lord Let your revels have no end. Prolong your idle play, Protract your leisure.
Unsullied the white colt In that deserted valley, With a bundle of fresh fodder. 'Though you, its master, are fair as jade Do not let the news off you be rare as gold or jade, Keeping your thoughts far away.’
Who says you have no sheep? Three hundred is the flock. Who says you have no cattle? Ninety are the black–lips. Here your rams come, Their horns thronging; Here your cattle come, Their ears flapping.
Some go down the slope, Some are drinking in the pool, Some are sleeping, some waking. Here your herdsmen come In rush–cloak and bamboo–hat, Some shouldering their dinners. Only thirty brindled beasts! Your sacrifices will not go short.
Your herdsman comes, Bringing faggots, bringing brushwood, With the cock–game, with hen–game. Your rams come, Sturdy and sound; None that limps, none that ails. He beckons to them with raised arm; All go up into the stall.
Your herdsman dreams, Dreams of locusts and fish, Of banners and flags. A wise man explains the dreams: 'Locusts and fishes Mean fat years. Flags and banners Mean a teeming house and home.'