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Monday, December 18, 2023

Aspirations (by Tang Yin)

Here's a short poem by the Ming artist Tang Yin that captures the artist's aspiration to find a way to live free of the work-a-day world's entanglements.   Most likely written in the early years of the 1500s, it might just as easily come off the pen of a beat or millennial slacker poet. 


Tang Yin

No alchemy

No meditation

No commerce

No work in the fields


Just writing at leisure

To the green hills give all

Free of human toil

By money unsoiled










In addition to writing poetry, Tang Yin was a painter - in fact that's primarily what he was known for.  He was one of the most highly regarded landscape painters of the Ming Dynasty.  Here's one of his paintings which I think should give you a good idea of how he aspired to give the green hills his all.

Although there are no green hills in this wintry landscape, it is a moment closely observed, as a flock of corvids land in a barren treetop.  I’m not sure this is right … but I see this painting as a self-portrait, of sorts, with the poet/painter being the person shown walking beside the stream.  This is the artist strolling downstream, feeling deeply at ease in nature; he looks up into the tree tops and is suddenly possessed by the idea for a new painting.  It’s the moment of inspiration.  In other words, this is a painting of the moment when the idea for the painting first took form.

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