Living Aloft

Wen Zhengming Chinese

Not on view

Wen Zhengming painted Living Aloft for his friend Liu Lin (1474–1561), who, at the age of seventy, had retired from government service but had not yet built a home suitable for his new life. Wen's painting presents an idealized vision of life in retirement: separated from the outside world by a stream and a rustic wall, two friends enjoy each other's company in a two-story hall that is further isolated in a tall grove of trees. Wen elaborates on the pleasures of such a life in his accompanying poem:

Immortals have always delighted in pavilion-living,
Windows open on eight sides-eyebrows smiling.
Up above towers and halls well up,
Down below, clouds and thunder are vaguely sensed.
Reclining on a dais, a glimpse of Japan,
Leaning on a balustrade, the sight of Manchuria.
While worldly affairs shift and change,
In their midst a lofty man is at ease.

(After Ling-yün Shih Liu, trans., in Richard Edwards et al., The Art of Wen Cheng-ming [1470–1559] [Ann Arbor: Museum of Art, University of Michigan, 1976], p. 150)

#7608. Living Aloft: Master Liu's Retreat

Living Aloft, Wen Zhengming (Chinese, 1470–1559), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China

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