Hanging scroll; ink on paper
42 3/4 x 13 1/8 in. (108.6 x 33.3 cm)
The Harry G.C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G.C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975 (1975.268.39)
Above a quickly rendered image of a lonely figure in a landscape, five poems in Chinese inscribed by five Zen monks celebrate the Zen ideals reflected in the life and poetry of one of China's most famous scholar-officials, Su Dongpo (Su Shi, 10361101). The episode recalled here occurred when Su was in exile on the remote island of Hainan. His characteristic equanimity is immortalized in this story. Returning home after a visit, Su was caught in a sudden downpour and forced to borrow a peasant's straw raincoat and clogs. The sight of the famous scholar dressed so outlandishly roused the laughter of women and children and the barking of dogs. Unlike descriptions of this episode by Chinese literati, concerned with Su's heroism and incorruptible spirit, these poems reflect the Zen idea of the essential oneness of all things, good and bad: whether in office or in lonely exile, Su was calm and self-possessed.