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[SEPTEMBER 2017.]

Shadowed purple clouds, low and blown sideways, a scrim over the sunlit pink clouds farther up.

The monarch on the sidewalk in front of the library fanning its wings, fluttering, sometimes capsized by the wind was so vivid and dark that it might have just come out of the chrysalis. I moved it to the shrubs with a stick. But as soon as I set it down, its flapping and clambering took it back onto the pavement. Frangible soul. I’m writing this in the grocery store. By the time I walk back, it’s gone one way or another.

Time to get started, for real, chips a voice in me nearly every morning, optimistic goldfish brain that has no clue how long everything’s been in motion already.

In any case, the comment reveals the nature of Chinese estimations of Ch’iu [Ying]’s works. The Wu-sheng-shih shih describes them as “beautiful and elegant, full of delicate and graceful detail. The brushwork was so refined that the pictures looked as if they had been carved in jade.” This is a good description of the truly lapidary character of Ch’iu’s most polished productions, of which the Golden Valley Garden is certainly one. We might also, however, find the profusion and variety of jadelike detail in it a bit excessive and agree with Wang Chih-teng who (borrowing a phrase from the pre-Han work Chan-kuo t’e charged that Ch’iu, “when painting a snake, could not refrain from adding feet.”

—James Cahill, Parting at the Shore: Chinese Painting of the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty, 1368–1580

<= 2017.08

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