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A mind of the times

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-22 08:20
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Yu cites Su's famous line from The Former Ode on the Red Cliffs: "The gentle breeze blows our way, but the waves are still calm."

This line demonstrates how "Su's words are full of pictures", he says.

"Reading his articles is like enjoying his paintings."

Another painting highlighted at the exhibition, The Red Cliffs, was created by an anonymous Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) artist.

It's perhaps natural to feel emotional resonance with the image of Su and his friends sitting on a boat, floating along vast waters. It can conjure thoughts about the ups and downs in our own lives.

"Su is adept at learning from his predecessors and continuously developing his own styles," the curator says.

"He called for people to reflect their personalities through writing and broke the common practice that rigidly replicated certain established models. It pioneered new concepts for Chinese calligraphy."

The Palace Museum houses over 160,000 ancient paintings, calligraphy works and epigraphic rubbings. Curators spent over a year scouring the museum's inventory to prepare for the monumental anniversary.

The exhibition opened a few months later than planned due to COVID-19.

"Many exhibits, although important, lacked certain scenes that hadn't been publicly displayed before," Palace Museum deputy director Ren Wanping says.

"But recent academic studies have given us an opportunity to host an exhibition about Su Shi-a theme hasn't been seen in recent times.

"Hailing him also reflects our calls for a time of cultural prosperity," she explains.

"He's not only for us to admire as an icon but also to enable us to gain strength from the strong spirit of China's elegant literati."

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