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The art of giving

By Lin Qi | China Daily Global | Updated: 2022-08-08 08:09

Also on display are Mountains and Spring (above) by Ming artist Wen Zhengming and Narcissus by 16th-century painter Wang Guxiang. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Paintings depicting bamboos and rocks constitute an important part of Deng's donation.

Ancient Chinese valued the harmonious coexistence of humans and nature. Intellectuals imbued objects from nature with fine moral qualities, which they expressed in literature and art, for example in literati paintings.

A section at the ongoing exhibition is dedicated to the paintings of bamboos and rocks, the two subjects of rich symbolic meaning.

Bai Juyi, a preeminent Tang Dynasty (618-907) poet and statesman, once said that bamboo represented integrity, honesty and firmness. He also said that the rock was like "a friend who can't talk but is righteous, frank and wise".

His praise inspired generations of artists to draw bamboos and rocks together as a way to hail high morality. A leading figure in this trend was Su Shi, a noted Song Dynasty scholar, politician and artist, who pioneered literati painting and said that he couldn't live without bamboos for even one day.

Very few paintings attributed to Su have been found, but one has been Bamboos and Rocks which is on show at the current exhibition.

Mi Fu, the painter who, like Su, is deemed one of "the four masters of the Song Dynasty", said that the hard lines in the painting revealed Su's depression at the time.

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