"The Arduous Road to Shu" and "Song of the Immortal" by Li Bo (Shu dao nan, Huai xian ge)







 
Zhu Yunming (1461-1527)
"The Arduous Road to Shu" and "Song of the Immortal" by Li Bo (Shu dao nan, Huai xian ge)
China, Ming dynasty
late 15th - early 16th centuries
Calligraphy, handscroll
Ink on paper
29.4 x 510.6 cm., frontispiece by Puru (1896-1963), 29.3 x 92.5 cm.
The John B. Elliott, Class of 1951, Collection
1998-148


Description

Zhu Yunming transcribes two poems by the Tang dynasty (618–907) poet Li Bo (701–762). The first poem, “The Arduous Road to Shu,” is a dramatic account of traveling through the precipitous mountains of Sichuan. A passage describing the dangerous scenery reads:
Peak upon peak less than a foot from the sky, Where withered pines hang inverted from sheer cliffs, Where cataracts and roaring currents make noisy clamor, Dashing upon rocks, a thunderclap from ten thousand glens. An impregnable place like this—-I sigh and ask why should anyone come here from far away?

The second poem, “Song of the Immortal,” belongs to a poetic genre known as “roaming with immortals,” in which the poet envisions journeys in search of supernatural beings.

Zhu Yunming fully exploited the potential of the flexible brush to create dramatic wild-cursive brush-work that com¬ple¬ments the extravagance of Li’s poetic language. His swiftly written rounded strokes as well as sharper, angular strokes fly across the paper, and an array of ink dots in an endless variety of forms rhythmically punctuate the scroll.

Published References & Reproductions

Harrist and Fong, The Embodied Image: Chinese Calligraphy from the John B. Elliott Collection (Princeton: Princeton University Art Museum, 1999), cat. no. 25, pp. 71-73, 329-30.

Hok-Lam Chan, "Zhu Yunming's Qianwenji (Memoir of By-gone Events): A Neglected Source on Li Tan's Rebellion of 1262," The East Asian Library Journal 11, no. 1 (2002), p. 102, fig. 2.

Osaka Shiritsu Bijutsukan 大阪市立美術館 ed., Umi o watatta Chūgoku no sho: Eriotto korekushon to Sō Gen no meiseki 海を渡った中国の書: エリオット コレクション と 宗元の名蹟 (The Embodied Image: Chinese Calligraphy from the John B. Elliott Collection) (Tokyo: Yomiuri Shinbunsha, 2003), cat. no. 26.