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明 沈周 《春溪覓句圖》 軸

Seeking a Line of Poetry by a Spring Stream


I stroll along chanting low, springtime sun in the west,
Moss tracks and pine shadows have not turned to mud.
In a perfect spot, Heaven put a table to write my poem,
A single green mountain inserted in the azure stream.
Shen Zhou

Painting: Hiking for Poetic Inspiration

Hiking a trail in the high mountains in search of poetic inspiration, a lone gentleman pauses to gaze at a pair of trees and a small stand of bamboo. The pine bark is vibrantly dotted with dark discs of ink, representing lichen. Similar dots cluster along the tops of smaller peaks that flank the central mountain, a towering cliff pierced by a waterfall.

More substantial than ethereal, opaque mist conceals the lower portion of the distant mountain and merges with the unpainted nearby stream. This creates a void at the center of the composition, against which two trees are silhouetted. Because the satin surface is not well suited to dry brushwork, Shen Zhou instead featured glossy, weighty lines. Although Shen seldom painted on satin, he experimented with it briefly in the early 1480s.

Both the poem and painting likely refer to a moment in Shen Zhou’s own life. Such forays into nature represent an ideal pastime for the gentleman-scholar living in retirement and provide a constant theme for traditional Chinese poetry and painting.

明 沈周 《春溪覓句圖》 軸
Seeking a Line of Poetry by a Spring Stream

Shen Zhou (1427–1509)
China, Ming dynasty, ca. 1482
Hanging scroll; ink and color on satin
Purchase—Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art F1989.3

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