Folding fan

Folding fan
Ink on gold paper

H.18.8 X W.47.9cm

Ni Yuan lu  (1593-1644) China

In Chinese culture calligraphy and painting are regarded as twin arts. Both use ink, brush and paper and, naturally, one came with the other. A scholar painter of the Ming dynasty, and a member of the imperial academy, Ni served both as Minister of Finance and Minister of Rites. He was known in his life for his courage and independence. Subtly the poem illustrates these traits. The second couplet begins:

Can a thousand gold buy the song of a bird?
Can ten thousand horses neigh as loud as the wind roars?

Ni, despite his position as Minister of Finance, boldly questions the abuse of money, represented by the gold, and power, represented by the horses. He asks if these things can really buy beauty, honesty and other things of true value.

In an act considered to be the ultimate action of heroism by Chinese culture, Ni hung himself upon learning of the suicide of the last Ming emperor.

 

 


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