Poet on a Mountain Top (杖藜遠眺) 

Shen Zhou (沈周, 1427-1509), Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) 

Album leaf, ink on paper, 38.7 x 60.3 cm, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri

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       Shen Zhou exemplified literati painting with his blending of poetry and painting, the arts of words and images. Many of Shen Zhou’s paintings include poems of his own – many also include poems composed by friends.

       The painting below is one of Shen Zhou’s most famous. The scholar alone in nature seems to be looking out not over a chasm of rocks and clouds, but directly at the poem that Shen Zhou has placed before him. The poem reads as follows:

White clouds sash-like
       wrap mountain waists,
The rock terrace flies in space
       distant, a narrow path.
Leaning on a bramble staff
       far and free I gaze,
To the warble of valley brook
       I will reply, whistling.

(Translation from Indiana University.)

白雲如帶束山腰,石磴飛空細路遙。獨倚杖藜舒眺望,欲因鳴澗答吹簫。