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唐寅題畫詩 A poem Tang Yin inscribed on his painting

野水荒亭氣象

山深應少客來

啼禽欲歇煙霞暝,

一對西風落葉[1]


Wild water, an abandoned pavilion: the atmosphere is seclusive.

In the depths of the mountain visitors must be scarce.

Crowing fowls desire to retire, and misty dusk clouds go dim.

The solitary [person] faces the west wind in the autumn of falling leaves.


[1] Red characters rhyme.

 

Every time I visit a mountain, I wish I could stay longer. This thought came back to me again in September when I was sitting with my friends and listening to the singing brooks at the foot of Mt. Qingcheng in Sichuan. When I started to plan for another trip in October, I was determined that this trip must include a longer stay in the mountains. Fortunately, the friend who bought me the Buddha-hand citron in Jinhua knows someone who has good connections with mountain villas and countryside households who receive travellers. It didn’t take long for me to decide to stay in the Jiufeng Shanzhuang 九峰山莊 (Nine-Peak Villa) that is located in the Scenic Area of Mt. Jiufeng near Pingyanding Village 平巖頂村, Dongyang 東陽.


It was not easy to get there via public transport. I got up at about 5.30am to catch the first coach from Jinhua to Dongyang, and then changed bus routes twice before meeting up with the hostess who kindly offered to fetch me in the small town of Weishan 巍山. In the end, I settled in my room at about 10.30am. The villa is not really an anonymous place for locals, but as I visited it during the off-season period, there were no more than ten people in the whole estate that covers about 330 acres. Thanks to that, I had the exclusive privilege of enjoying the tranquillity of the autumnal mountains.


The first attraction I visited was the Huxiaoyan 虎嘯巖 (Tiger-Roaring Rock) next to the villa, and it immediately became my favourite spot which I visited twice every day. I liked it not just because it has a cool name, but also because it sits next to an abandoned pavilion, facing west. It’s obviously a perfect place for enjoying the sunset, so it was my routine to go up to the rock before the dinner time set by the villa kitchen (5pm).



Although there is another well-maintained pavilion in the gardens of the villa, it is located in the middle of a grove and doesn’t offer an open view. The Tiger-Roaring Rock and the abandoned pavilion next to it, on the other hand, is the best place nearby overlooking the whole villa and the surrounding mountains. I can’t really understand how such a nice place has been neglected. The stone steps leading to the rock are deeply buried in fallen leaves. One evening when I came down from the rock, the hostess and the cook asked me where I watched the sunset all the time. To my astonishment, they had never been there before during their eight years’ habitation of the villa. The sunset always clashes with their cooking time. I can only hope my strongest recommendation can persuade them to make some time to appreciate the amazing viewing platform just next to them.


The pavilion in the garden of the villa

The abandoned pavilion (left) and the path leading to the rock and the pavilion (right)


Tang Yin’s 唐寅 (1470-1524) poem translated above is not particularly memorable as a landscape poem, but I’ve found it amazing how his depiction coincides with my visit to the rock in many aspects. The poem is a collection of images that typically evoke melancholy (especially “abandoned pavilion,” “crowing fowls,” “west wind,” “autumn,” and “falling leaves”). There are numerous poems using these images, and they are often obvious vehicles for the poets’ complaints about their encounters, or sometimes their sighs over historical vicissitudes. However, when I found the great view at the Tiger-Roaring Rock, I was too excited to appreciate those sorrowful tones. Tang Yin’s unadorned display of these images was just right for me. A beautiful scene is to be represented as a beautiful scene. One doesn’t always have to be so depressed when seeing an abandoned pavilion and fallen leaves on an autumnal day.


One can even say the way Tang Yin wrote his poem also speaks of his identity as a great painter. Indeed, this poem was not meant to be read as an abstract text in the first place. It was inscribed on Tang Yin’s painting and meant to be viewed as part of his graphic creation.


Detail of Tang Yin’s Shanshui ba duan juan 山水八段卷 (Scroll of eight-section landscape painting). The poem translated above is the text on the left inscribed by Tang Yin’s hand; inscription on the right by his artist friend Wen Zhengming 文徵明 (1470-1559).


As a person that knows little about traditional painting styles and techniques, I often find myself overwhelmed by the abundance of Chinese landscape paintings and can easily reach the point of thinking many of them look very similar. It is certainly a great pleasure to look at them, but to my untrained eyes they are beautiful in the same way.


However, now I seem to be arriving at a better understanding of how unique each painting is. When I read the poem itself, I thought it could be applicable to what I experienced on the Tiger-Roaring Rock. Yet the painting filled in the space left by the words and reminded me that Tang Yin was looking at a rather different landscape. At that moment, the painting and the landscape depicted in it became more real to my eyes than before. This painting is no longer just one of the numerous landscape paintings.


I remember my friend asked me how I could resist the temptation of an outing when I stayed in her apartment in Hangzhou. As my October trip to Hangzhou was my third visit there, I only wanted some good rest. I found it difficult to explain why I didn’t want to go out more often. But when I was in the mountains, I suddenly realised that it was simply because the temptation in Hangzhou wasn’t big enough for me. In the mountain, I went out for a walk at least twice a day and explored every path I could find. As I became obsessed with collecting different views at different times, it became much easier to understand why artists have been painting landscape endlessly. They are all different after all!


 

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