Skip to content

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

       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.)