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A painting of bamboo, chrysathemums and orchids by Zheng Xie 鄭燮 (Pt. 2)

An untitled painting of bamboo, chrysanthemums and orchids by Zheng Xie 鄭燮 (i.e. Zheng Banqiao 鄭板橋, 1693-1765)

© The Trustees of the British Museum

The numbering of inscriptions and seals in this blog.

Detail of the middle part of the hand scroll.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Inscription B:






The thinner ones are stronger. With the rain drizzling and the wind blowing, [they look] like the Xiao-Xiang [bamboo][4] at an angle. Young branches and jade shoots upthrust tall, densely or sparsely, murmuring and whispering. The awakened one got [the inspiration of a poem] for himself:

In front of the study, one needs but two bamboos

For the marvellous sounds of wind and rain.

In fear of finding no sleep because of the disturbance,

[One] barely notices a poem is completed on the pillow.

Seals (all by the artist himself):

4: Gukuang 古狂 (The mad one of antiquity)

5: Zhixin daochang 直心道場 (Honest heart as the place of enlightenment): an extract from the Vimalakirti Sutra.

6: Zheng Xie zhi yin 鄭燮之印 (The seal of Zheng Xie)

7: Siyi fumu lingmin 思貽父母令名 (Thinking of giving parents a fine reputation): an extract from the classical text Liji 禮記.

[1] The transcription provided by the British Museum differs and reads 撥得孙枝玉筆長, which can be understood as “[One] can pluck out a young branch for a long jade brush.” When we look at the original calligraphy, whereas the first character may be 拨 (撥) or 拔, the sixth character is most likely to be 笋 (bamboo shoot) instead of 筆 (brush pen). Other calligraphy works by Zheng Xie can also show that the way he writes the character 筆 is very different from what we have here in this line. [2] The British Museum transcribes as 欹欹側側 (slanting and leaning). However, it’s quite clear that the first character is 䚿 (murmuring), which also echoes with the second line of the following poem about sounds. [3] Red characters rhyme; same below.

[4] The Xiao-Xiang bamboo refers to spotted bamboo or teardrop bamboo (Phyllostachys bambusoides forma. lacrima-deae) that grows in the reaches of the Xiao and Xiang rivers and famously provides material for brush handles.

Detail of the left end of the hand scroll.

© The Trustees of the British Museum

Inscription C:







I planted tens of pots of orchids. Towards the end of the third spring, they all looked haggard as if longing to return home. Thereupon, I replanted them among the yellow stones of Lake Tai, in the shade of mountains and gaps among stones. Avoiding direct sunlight in a dry place, [they] didn’t look bad in front of my hall. The following year, tens of shoots suddenly appeared, growing straight up, with intense fragrance spreading far. After another year, [they] flourished even more. [I] then understood that everything has its own nature and dedicated a poem to [them]:

Orchids are originally a herb from the mountains,

[I] plant them back into the mountains.

Being planted in pots in the turmoil of this earthly world

Is not as good as staying with mist and rosy clouds.

In the last decade of days of the eighth month in the autumn of the nineteenth year of Qianlong [1754], [by] Banqiao, Zheng Xie

Seals (all by the artist himself):

8. Shi nian xianling 十年縣令 (District Magistrate for ten years)

9. Bingchen jinshi 丙辰進士 (Presented scholar of the bingchen year [1736])

10. Qipinhuan er 七品官耳 (Just a seventh-rank official)

11. Ershi nian qian jiu Banqiao 二十年前舊板橋 (The old wood-board bridge from twenty years ago): Banqiao 板橋, literally “wood-board bridge”, is Zheng Xie’s style name.

12. Wei yizhang 濰夷長 (Head of barbarians in Wei): Zheng Xie served as a local official in the town of Wei in Shandong from 1742 to 1753.

13. Ganlan xuan 橄欖軒 ([Chinese] Olive Studio) [5] The punctuation provided by the British Museum is 既已避日, 又就燥對. However, it seems more adequate to put a comma after the compound jiuzao 就燥 (near the dry). [6] The British Museum transcribes as 乃知物冬有本性, which may be read as “[I] then understood that everything has its nature in the winter” but doesn’t really fit the context well.


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