Song of the Lute

Ding Yunpeng Chinese

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On a chilly autumn evening in A.D. 816, the poet Bai Juyi was seeing a friend off at a ferry stop when he heard the sound of a lute drifting across the water. Following the music, he came to a boat where an aging courtesan sat issuing her plaintive song across the darkening river. Moved by the melancholy dignity of the scene, Bai wrote “Song of the Lute” in honor of the courtesan. In this rendering of the famous poem, the only indication of night is the candle between Bai and his friend as they sit in their boat, transfixed by the beauty of the song.

Song of the Lute, Ding Yunpeng (Chinese, 1547–ca. 1628), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China

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