Two Mynas on a Rock

Portion of Two Mynas on a Rock, 1692

ink on paper
H.105.4 X W.36cm

Bada Shanren (Zhu Da), 1624-1705, China

A descendent of the imperial family of the Ming dynasty, the regime changed when Bada was 19 years old. 

Facing severe political repression, his work is characterized by a lament of this change and expresses the misery and misfortune he felt. Bada broke away from old Chinese symbolism.  Much of his subject matter is conventional but rendered in a singular aesthetic. The accompanying poetry in his early painting is cryptic, only occasionally revealing his true feeling. Later Bada ceases to use poetry.

Now, instead, he uses indignant, defiant white eyes, as seen in the two myna birds of this scroll. These eyes are also seen in the fish, ducks and other animals of his later work. The eyes, combined with their upturned expression, show Bada’s self exile and clearly exhibit his disgust and pain. Is the visual image of the eye more poignant than the words of his poetry?


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