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Chinese botanical motifs: orchid

5 March, 2008 (05:00) | china, early modern, paintings | By: xensen

orchids, chiense brush painting by shitao

These leaves from Shitao’s album depict orchids, with an accompanying verse on the opposite page. Orchids are a popular subject for brush painting, in part thanks to their simple, rhythmic form. According to the Met’s entry on this object, “the calligraphy of the poem, in the manner of Zhong You, with its softly undulating strokes and gently rising and fading ink tones, simulates the swaying orchid leaves and blossoms.”

The best-known or at least longest-established orchid in China is the cymbidium (lanhua), which is noted more for its fragrance than its floral display. The opening lines of the verse, which quote the Classic of Songs, allude to this:

Words from a sympathetic heart
Are as fragrant as orchids

The orchid is regarded as a symbol of spring, and the verse goes on to develop this association.

Together with the plum, the chrysanthemum , and the bamboo, the orchid is known as one of the “four gentlemen of flowers.”


The Samurai are coming

24 January, 2008 (05:00) | japan, medieval | By: xensen

medieval samurair armor (yoroi) from the metropolitan museum, new york

2008-2009 is shaping up as the year of the Samurai in U.S. museums. The Met will show the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to the arts of the samurai from October 21, 2008, through January 11, 2009. The exhibition is being co-organized with the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Japan.

Then, in June, on the left coast, the Asian Art Museum will host its own Samurai show. This show will feature objects drawn from the collections of the Hosokawa family, including works from the Eisei-Bunko Museum in Tokyo, the Kumamoto Municipal Museum, and the Kumamoto Castle in Kyushu.

Companion books will accompany both shows. It will be interesting to see how the two exhibitions complement each other.


Shown: Armor (yoroi), early 14th century. Japan, Late Kamakura period. Lacquered iron and leather, silk, stenciled leather, gilt copper; H. (as mounted) 37 1/2 in. (95.25 cm) W. 22 in. (55.88 cm). Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Bashford Dean, 1914 (14.100.121b–e)