Quatrain by Meng Haoran

Emperor Lizong Chinese

Not on view

Like most imperial calligraphies, this fan is not signed or dated, but its distinctive writing style— the same as that of the couplet mounted together with Ma Lin's Landscape at Sunset (Nezu Museum, Tokyo) and dated 1254—clearly identifies it as a work by Lizong. The round seal showing the trigram qian ("Heaven"), used only by the emperor, confirms its imperial pedigree. The poem, though composed by Meng Haoran (689–740), perfectly describes the kind of atmospheric qualities that thirteenth-century painters, such as Ma Lin and Liang Kai, sought to evoke pictorially:

In the Chan meditation hall, on the mountaintop, hangs a priest's robe.
There is no one outside the window, only birds flying by a stream.
As dusk half envelops the mountain path,
I hear the bells toll over the endless greenery.

(Wen C. Fong, trans., in Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th–14th Century [New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992], p. 239)

Quatrain by Meng Haoran, Emperor Lizong (Chinese, 1205–64, r. 1224–64), Fan mounted as an album leaf; ink on silk, China

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