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Zhou Dunyi admiring lotus flowers

Ren Xun Chinese

Not on view

The melancholy figure in this painting is Zhou Dunyi, a major philosophical thinker of the Northern Song dynasty (960–1127). Late in life, Zhou retired to a rustic retreat at the foot of Mount Lu in Jiangxi Province, where he penned his famous “On the Love of the Lotus,” an ode to his favorite flower. Some images of Zhou depict him as peaceful and carefree, but Ren Xun’s painting, in which the decaying blossoms and leaves of late summer mirror the careworn features of the aging scholar, presents a more brooding vision.

Zhou Dunyi admiring lotus flowers, Ren Xun (Chinese, 1835–1893), Folding fan mounted as an album leaf; ink and color on paper, China

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