Illustration of Su Shi’s “Second Rhapsody on Red Cliff”

Zhang Ruitu Chinese

Not on view

Passing the palace examination with high honors in 1607, Zhang Ruitu held a number of important government posts before being elevated to the grand secretariat in 1626 through the support of the powerful eunuch Wei Zhongxian (1568–1627). Zhang, a renowned calligrapher, won favor with Wei by writing out texts composed in the eunuch's honor. Although Zhang retired from office in 1628, shortly after Wei's downfall, he was later listed as one of the eunuch's followers andescaped imprisonment only by paying a large fine. He spent his last years in his native Fujian, and most of his paintings date to that period.

Zhang Ruitu's illustration of Su Shi's (1036–1101) Second Ode on the Red Cliff focuses on the moment Su Shi, separated from his companions, climbs the cliff and comes face-to-face with untamed nature. The painting and Zhang's accompanying transcription of another poem by Su Shi, Nostalgia for the Past at the Red Cliff, dated soon after his retirement from office, reflect his feelings about the transience of life and careers in politics.

#7638. Second Ode on the Red Cliff

Illustration of Su Shi’s “Second Rhapsody on Red Cliff”, Zhang Ruitu (Chinese, 1570–1641), Handscroll; ink on satin, China

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