Poetic Couplet for Xiangru

Lin Yutang Chinese

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In this pair of hanging scrolls, Lin Yutang transcribed a famous couplet from a poem by Yan Shu (991–1055), a high-ranking official and major poet of the Northern Song period (960–1127). It reads:

No matter what, flowers die.
As if they once knew me, swallows return.

(trans. by Shi-yee Liu)

Written in Lin's typical informal manner, the calligraphy achieves an overall effect of easy grace with little regard to the articulation of individual strokes.

Lin Yutang dedicated this work to his third daughter, Xiangru (Hsiang Ju). The third character in the second line of the poem, xiang, corresponds to the first character of his daughter's given name; Lin cleverly personalized his gift by replacing the matching third character of the first line in the original poem, nai, with the second character of her name, ru, thus embedding her name within the fabric of the couplet. Lin's ingenious tampering with a well-known text shows the playfulness in his personality and his affectionate thoughtfulness for family members.

#7424. Poetic Couplet for Xiangru

Poetic Couplet for Xiangru, Lin Yutang (Chinese, 1895–1976), Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper, China

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