Ni Yuanlu Chinese

Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

Not on view

An ardent reformer and opponent of the eunuch Wei Zhongxian (1568–1627), Ni Yuanlu rose to the position of minister of revenue and lecturer to the emperor. When the rebel Li Zicheng (1605?–1645) took the capital on April 25, 1644, Ni, like the Ming emperor, committed suicide rather than fall into enemy hands.

Ni, who was admired for his patriotism, had an angular calligraphic and painting style that was said to reflect his character. Ni's early calligraphy was done with sharp "side-tip" strokes made with the brush held obliquely, while in his later works, as in this piece, the writing is rounder and mellower. This poem is one of five that Ni Yuanlu composed for the waterways administrator Mr. Xu to celebrate his friend's recent marriage. Ni apparently served as a matchmaker for Xu, and he wrote out this poem as a playful wedding gift in which he suggests that Xu's beautiful bride has caused him to neglect his official duties:

Commercial boats [are as numerous] as ants,
their passengers are like flocks of cranes;
[It is because] today the canal was opened even later
than yesterday.
The administrator must have been busy all morning;
Apparently, he has never been married to a woman whose
eyebrows are like a distant line of mountains!

Calligraphy, Ni Yuanlu (Chinese, 1593–1644), Hanging scroll; ink on paper, China

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