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Hongliao 紅蓼 in Dong Gao's 董誥 album of summer flowers

Picture credits:

Top: National Palace Museum, Taipei

Bottom left: Wikipedia

Bottom right: Biodiversity Heritage Library

Persicaria orientalis, Spach. or Polygonum orientale Linn.

Album leaf from “Xiahua shi zhen” 夏花十幀 (Ten leaves of summer blossoms) by Dong Gao 董誥 (1740-1818)






Delicate figures by the islet, as if hovering in the air,

With reflections on the clear stream, water tinged with red.

Behold, the branches sway with easy grace

Clearly intending to allure the autumn wind.


會心不遠 (Enlightenment isn’t far away)

德充符 (The Sign of Virtue Complete)


Although Dong Gao includes hongliao 紅蓼 in an album dedicated to summer flowers, it blooms in late summer and often represents the advent of autumn in Chinese literature, as shown in the inscription. Perhaps because it is an “attractive old-fashioned plant growing as high as the fence” [Bailey, L.H.: The Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (New York: Macmillan, 1937), vol. 3, p. 2741], one of its common names in English is "kiss-me-over-the-garden-gate".

The first seal alludes to a Shishuo xinyu 世說新語 anecdote of Emperor Jianwen of Jin 晉簡文帝 (320-372, ruling 372), who noted that one doesn’t need to look afar for enlightenment – it may be inspired by ordinary scenery (see passage 61).

The second seal is the title of a Zhuangzi chapter that demonstrates the accomplishment of virtue by presenting a series of figures with various physical defects.


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