Awaiting the Emperor's Return from the Southern Suburbs

Wen Zhengming Chinese

Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

Not on view

From 1523 to 1527 Wen Zhengming served as an official in the capital, where his talents—as well as his patience—were put to the test by a flood of requests for literary compositions and calligraphy. This poem, written in celebration of the Jiaqing emperor's (r. 1522–66) return journey to his palace, is lavish in praise and formal in tone; the calligraphy is in the grand manner of Yan Zhenqing (709–785) and Huang Tingjian (1045–1105):

The bell on the Imperial Lord's returning chariot
calms the singingof myriad larks;
Purplish clouds, gathering above, shelter the
powerful essence.
Chariots and armor glitter like brilliant
On banners preceding the emperor's chariot, sun
and moon shine brightly.
For ten miles the spring wind heralds the
approach of the imperial procession.
All quarters are in harmony with the music of
sage emperors.
In my old age I have the chance to view personally
the glory of this imperial procession;
And wish to take the "Ssu wen" ode [in the Book
of Poetry] as my example in praise of this
peaceful reign.

(Shih Shou-chien, trans., in "Calligraphy as Gift: Wen Cheng-ming's (1470–1559) Calligraphy and the Formation of the Soochow Literati Culture," in Cary Y. Liu et al., eds., Character and Context in Chinese Calligraphy [Princeton: The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1999], p. 258)

Awaiting the Emperor's Return from the Southern Suburbs, Wen Zhengming (Chinese, 1470–1559), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, China

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