Song of the Lute

Ding Yunpeng Chinese

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 211

On a chilly autumn evening in 816 CE, 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 from which an aging courtesan issued her mournful 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 music.

Song of the Lute, Ding Yunpeng (Chinese, 1547–ca. 1621), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China

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