The Strange Pines of Mount Tiantai

Dai Benxiao Chinese

Not on view

A refuge since its discovery in the fourth century, Mount Tiantai is a legendary dwelling place of Buddhist holy men; its natural stone bridge is a fabled point of connection between this world and the paradise of the immortals. Dai Benxiao, whose Ming-loyalist father committed suicide after being injured in a battle against Qing forces, focuses here on the mountain's pines. Symbolic of survival in times of adversity, the pines, having been suddenly threatened, reflect the artist's uncertainty about his ability to find spiritual sanctuary in a world from which he feels alienated:

The strangely shaped pine trees of Mount Tiantai have been depicted by artists of previous periods. . . . I have decided to portray this theme, drawing upon my own imagination. I have heard recently that most of these strange pines have met the sad fate of extinction. It seems that once the natural wonders of the sky, earth, mountains, and rivers are exposed to the intimate scrutiny of the dusty world, they do not last long. This is indeed cause for lamentation.

Dawn Ho Delbanco, trans.,

#7304. The Strange Pines of Mount Tiantai

The Strange Pines of Mount Tiantai, Dai Benxiao (Chinese, 1621–1693), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, China

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