Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink on gold-flecked paper
6 3/4 x 19 in. (17.1 x 49.5 cm)
Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988
Not on view
Unlike most of his artistically inclined friends in Suzhou, Wu Kuan enjoyed a long and successful career as an official. He achieved first place in the palace examinations of 1472 and held a series of important posts at the court in Beijing, culminating with the office of secretary of the Board of Rites.
Like other Ming literati from Suzhou, Wu Kuan's calligraphy was influenced by Northern Song (960–1127) models. With its fleshy, modulated brushstrokes and squat characters, Wu's writing style follows that of the poet-calligrapher Su Shi (1036–1101). Wu accompanied this poem with a brief account of the circumstances under which it was created: "On the evening of the twenty-eighth of the fifth month [June 17], it began to rain after a long drought. I was collating Bo Juyi's [772–846] works and had just come to the poem 'Joyous Rain.' Following its rhyme, I composed a poem to express my own joy."
Signature: Signed, datable to 1498, 1 artist's seal
Inscription: The text with minor changes in two places occurs in Wu Kuan's collected papers, Pao-an jia cangji (SPTK ED.24/6). The date 1498 may be inferred from his collected papers and tallies with the period during which he sould have been attached to the offices mentioned by him in his signature. The 28th day of the 5th month, given by Wu at the beginning of his prose account of the poem corrersponds to June 17 of the solar calendar for the year 1498. The poem which follows the rhyme of another poem of the same title by the Tang dynasty poet Bo Zhuyi (772–846) reads: Time to harvest wheat, and in the drought there was no wheat: How then were millet and beans to be sown? Toward evening came the sound-pattering, pattering— Heard suddenly among the dry bamboo. Could my ears be startled so? Wherewith, I rubbed my eyes to clear my sight. Getting up, down to the courtyard I went. And with robes soaked, dashed about in joy. The gutter seemed just about to burst, When water suddenly poured unbroken over the eaves. Rain fell upon the wilting green pines, Whose branches drooped, as though freshly bathed. Day lilies recovered their orangish hue, While vines and creepers grew thick and green. The ancient poets lavished praise upon the rain. And so do I, harmonizing with the shower. Releasing prisoners was being considered during the drought, An end to construction having already been proclaimed. Feeling cheerful, I did not want to go home, But sat some while and asked to have the candle lighted.
Wu's account of the circumstances under which the poem was written follows on the fan: On the evening of the 18th of the 5th month, it began to rain afrer a long drought. I was collating Bo Zhuyi's works and had just come to the work "Joy for Rain". Following its rhyme I composed a poem to express my own joy. Yuanbo (Wu Kuan) wrote this in the right chamber of the Board of Civil Office.
[Trans. Marc F. Wilson/ Kuan S. Wong]
Marking: Collectors' seals; John M. Crawford, Jr., 2 seals