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清 戴本孝 天台異松圖 軸 紙本
The Strange Pines of Mount Tiantai

Artist:
Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693)
Period:
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Date:
dated 1687
Culture:
China
Medium:
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions:
Image: 66 7/8 x 30 in. (169.9 x 76.2 cm) Overall with mounting: 122 3/4 x 37 1/16 in. (311.8 x 94.1 cm) Overall with knobs: 122 3/4 x 41 in. (311.8 x 104.1 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Gift of Marie-Hélène and Guy Weill, in honor of Douglas Dillon, 1991
Accession Number:
1991.256
Not on view
A refuge since its discovery in the fourth century, Mount Tiantai is a legendary dwelling place of Buddhist holy men; its natural stone bridge is a fabled point of connection between this world and the paradise of the immortals. Dai Benxiao, whose Ming-loyalist father committed suicide after being injured in a battle against Qing forces, focuses here on the mountain's pines. Symbolic of survival in times of adversity, the pines, having been suddenly threatened, reflect the artist's uncertainty about his ability to find spiritual sanctuary in a world from which he feels alienated:

The strangely shaped pine trees of Mount Tiantai have been depicted by artists of previous periods. . . . I have decided to portray this theme, drawing upon my own imagination. I have heard recently that most of these strange pines have met the sad fate of extinction. It seems that once the natural wonders of the sky, earth, mountains, and rivers are exposed to the intimate scrutiny of the dusty world, they do not last long. This is indeed cause for lamentation.

Dawn Ho Delbanco, trans.,
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (5 columns in semi-cursive script)

The strangely shaped pine trees of Mount Tiantai have been depicted by artists of previous periods. Lu Guimeng [of the Tang dynasty] has recorded and written a eulogy for one of these paintings. I have seen a copy of this painting at the home of a collector and was not impressed by it. Therefore I have decided to portray this theme drawing upon my own imagination. I have heard recently that most of these strange pines have met the sad fate of extinction. It seems that once the natural wonders of the sky, earth, mountains, and rivers are exposed to the intimate scrutiny of the dusty world, they do not last long. This is indeed cause for lamentation. [Dai] Benxiao, Heavenly Root Gatherer of Mount Ying’e did this for the amusement of Jun, my elder brother in the Way. On the summer solstice of the dingmao year [1687].[1]

天台異松,前人嘗為之圖,陸龜蒙記而贊之。曩從好事家見有摹本,未善也,因追以意圖之。近聞異松已多歸於冥漠。蓋天地山川之奇,一經為塵眼所狎,自不能久。如此不覺興嘅也。鷹阿山天根樵夫本孝似君老道兄粲鑒,時丁卯長至。

Artist's seals

Shi zhenshan 師真山
Ying’e Shanqiao 鷹阿山樵
Benxiao 本孝

[1] Dawn Ho Delbanco, trans., in Dawn Ho Delbanco and Wan-go H. C. Weng, Selections of Chinese Art from Private Collections, New York: China Institute in America, 1986, cat. no. 38, p. 96.
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