The Lin Yutang Family Collection, Gift of Hsiang Ju Lin, in memory of Taiyi Lin Lai, 2005
Not on view
Since the Song poet Lin Bu (967–1028) first celebrated the blossoming plums of his native Hangzhou (in Zhejiang province), plums have been a special subject for artists from that region. Tong Yu, from nearby Shaoxing, followed the local tradition established by his townsman Wang Mian (1287–1359).
The thrusting limbs of a blossoming plum energize this composition. Typically, neither tree trunk nor ground plane is depicted; instead the artist focuses on the dynamic counterpoint of two sturdy branches that curve in opposite directions. The moon and the flowers stand out in uninked plain paper, left in reserve against the lightly tinted night sky.
Tong Yu was also an accomplished calligrapher. His inscription on this painting, which combines clerical and cursive scripts—his two specialties—plays on the aesthetic of juxtaposing contrasting script types:
Drenched in Moonlight The ocean of clouds disperses; after the snowfall it begins to clear. The myriad valleys, in silent chill, remain frozen and muted. Only the plum trees in the moonlight on Mount Gu [in West Lake, Hangzhou] Branch out at will, unconcerned with the passage of time.
(trans. by Shi-yee Liu)
Lin Yutang purchased this painting in Shanghai prior to his departure for America in 1936.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (2 characters in large clerical script followed by 2 columns in cursive script)
Drenched in Moonlight
The ocean of clouds disperses; after the snowfall it begins to clear. The myriad valleys, in silent chill, remain frozen and muted. Only the plum trees in the moonlight on Mount Gu [in West Lake, Hangzhou] Branch out at will, unconcerned with the passage of time.
Ershu [Tong Yu]
Tong Yu zhi yin 童鈺之印 Ershu 二樹 Chapi jian shipi meichi yi huachi 荼癖兼詩癖 梅痴亦畫痴 (“Obsessed by tea and poetry, infatuated with plum blossoms and painting”)
 Documentation from Shi-yee Liu, Straddling East and West: Lin Yutang, A Modern Literatus: The Lin Yutang Family Collection of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007, no. 5, p. 33.