Quatrain on yellow roses

Empress Yang Meizi Chinese

Not on view

During the reign of Ningzong (1202–24), his consort, the empress Yang Meizi, was a formidable presence, both in politics and in the arts. Starting out as a young musician in the palace of Empress Wu (wife of Gaozong), Yang Meizi found favor with Ningzong and in 1202 maneuvered her way into becoming his wife. Wielding great power in court politics, she had the powerful prime minister Han Tuozhou executed in 1207 without consulting her husband. In 1224, when Ningzong died, she dethroned Crown Prince Hong and supported Prince Yun, who became Emperor Lizong (r. 1224–64).

An excellent calligrapher who practiced the imperial style initiated by Gaozong (r. 1127–62), the empress may have inscribed this poem on the opposite side of a fan painting of roses by a court artist:

Snowy stamens dot the tender yellow [flowers];
The rose is drenched with the morning dew that
wets my garment.
As the west wind sweeps away the wild bees and
I alone, at the border of Heaven, keep company
with the fragrant cassia tree.

(Wen C. Fong, trans., in Beyond Representation:
Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th-14th Century
[New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
1992], p. 237)

Quatrain on yellow roses, Empress Yang Meizi (Chinese, 1162–1232)  , r. 1202–24;, Round fan mounted as an album leaf; ink on silk, China

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