Landscape Painted on the Double Ninth Festival

Shitao (Zhu Ruoji) Chinese

Not on view

Shitao painted this landscape for a young friend who visited him on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month—a festival traditionally celebrated by mountain climbing. Suddenly struck by his own old age, Shitao wrote this inscription:

The days when I go climbing are few now and my walking staff no longer helps me. . . . When you were young, I was already in my prime; but suddenly, you are a man and I am old. The passage of time plays tricks on people; like mist or the moon, it cannot be trusted. The future is like a cloud or traces of decaying grass—how can one fathom it?

(trans. Wen Feng)

Shitao's painting is like a fleeting vision glimpsed through fog. As the fog lifts, an approaching skiff heralds the arrival of Shitao's friend, whose coming has the effect of clearing weather on the spirits of the housebound artist. Filling the sky above, Shitao's dedicatory poem is written in a buoyantly rhythmic version of "clerical" script. The monumental characters, engraved on stelae or cliff faces, boldly defy the transient imagery of the landscape and bespeak Shitao's determination to achieve permanence through his art.

Landscape Painted on the Double Ninth Festival, Shitao (Zhu Ruoji) (Chinese, 1642–1707), Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper, China

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