Grace and resilience

Cold separations

Relocation for duties remote from the capital and urban centres was an anticipated obligation of imperial officialdom. Distant appointments separated friends and were experienced as long-term isolation or exile. Poetry and literature have abundant descriptions of the sense of loss felt by all involved.

DING Yunpeng 丁雲鵬 (1547-after 1628) suggests the sadness of departure through a still, snowy landscape. As the scroll is small in format, the figures are slight and their faces un-detailed in the midst of the setting. This allows us to project our own or other lives into the convention of the piece. Yet there is emotional warmth as well. The figures have naturalistic gestures evoking care for and interest in one another; their garments are distinguished by hints of clear and pastel colour. Not far from the shore there is a wine shop from which the traveler is taking ample provision to ease the way.

In the distance an iconic fisherman is indifferent to the event in the foreground – pointing to the larger pattern of the world where personal matters are of only derisory importance. This customary image recalls stoicism, sacrifice and philosophical non-engagement.

DING Yunpeng 丁雲鵬 (1547-1628)
Landscape (dated 1590)
Handscroll, ink and color on paper
22.6 x 110 cm
Private collection

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