Poem on Promulgating the Almanac at New Year’s

Wen Peng Chinese

Not on view

On this large piece of brownish paper, Wen Peng, an eminent painter, calligrapher, and seal carver of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), transcribed a poem in running-cursive script in five columns. The poem reads,

The time–announcer waits for daybreak by the imperial hall.
The elegant palace where multitudes of officials gather exudes fresh grandeur.
At the turn of the year, I feel ashamed for passing the time doing nothing.
The issuing of calendar, appropriate for spring, happens to take place on a spring day.
The twilight of dawn initiates the path of the sun,
As if the smoke from incense burners were spreading over the royal court.
The promulgation of the almanac has always been a significant event.
What an honor that the profound grace reaches even a humble official!
Wen Peng


The text is followed by three artist’s seals: “Wen Peng zhi yin” (文彭之印), “Wen shi Shoucheng” (文氏壽承), and “Guozi xiansheng” (國子先生).

The poem describes the ritual of issuing the coming year’s almanac presided by the emperor, which took place at court at the beginning of the year during Wen Peng’s time. Wen served as Erudite of the Directorate of Education (Guozijian boshi) in Nanjing, the secondary capital. Although he was nominally affiliated with the same institution in Beijing, there is no record of his taking office in the capital. This poem could be inspired by a similar ceremony held in Nanjing which he witnessed, or an exercise in the conventional genre of court poetry. Composed probably on an occasion associated with the ceremony, the poem reveals how Wen embraced his identity as a court official.

Poem on Promulgating the Almanac at New Year’s, Wen Peng (Chinese, 1498–1573), Hanging scroll remounted as a panel; ink on paper, China

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