Unidentified Artist Chinese, second half of the 14th century
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
second half of the 14th century
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Image: 51 1/4 x 19 1/2 in. (130.2 x 49.5 cm) Overall with mounting: 84 x 24 7/8 in. (213.4 x 63.2 cm) Overall with knobs: 84 x 27 in. (213.4 x 68.6 cm)
Lent by Oscar L. Tang Family
Not on view
Blooming earlier than all other trees, the flowering plum (Prunus mume) is welcomed as the harbinger of spring and during the Southern Song period (1127–1279) became the object of intense admiration. By the mid-fourteenth century, as Mongol control disintegrated and society grew increasingly chaotic, the flowering plum became a powerful symbol of purity and endurance in the face of adversity.
In a poem accompanying the painting, this unidentified scholar-painter recalls the poet Su Shi (1037–1101), who was banished from the capital in 1095 but found happiness in Plum Blossom Village, at the foot of Mount Luofu. By the second half of the fourteenth century, the kind of contentment discovered by Su Shi, like the path to the idyllic Plum Blossom Village, had become increasingly difficult to find. The poem reads:
The flowing water of the stream glides by; Colorful birds chatter beneath the flowers. Of late I have taken an interest in [Mount] Luofu; But the path to the village grows dim in the twilight.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Text and Image: The Interaction of Painting, Poetry, and Calligraphy," January 23, 1999–August 16, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Cultivated Landscapes: Reflections of Nature in Chinese Painting with Selections from the Collection of Marie-Hélène and Guy Weill," September 10, 2002–February 9, 2003.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change," August 21, 2010–January 9, 2011.