Fan Qi and Du Fu are famous for their emphasis on realism. Both lived during turbulent times. Fan Qi witnessed Manchu invaders sack Nanjing in the final days of the Ming dynasty, while Du Fu saw the havoc wreaked by An Lushan’s rebel forces on Chang’an in the late Tang-dynasty.
In contrast with the wartime chaos Fan lived in, the painting lulls viewers into a comforting natural environment. The mandarin ducks lounge gracefully in the moonlight. Reeds bend in the wind. Even the inscription recounts the elegance of the scene without mention of its historical backdrop. Unlike his contemporaries, Fan Qi used bright colors to convey the liveliness of the scene. Nature is a common motif in his work. Through it he invokes nostalgia for a calmer past, perhaps to disconnect from the terrors of the present. Du Fu, on the other hand, delves into the pain and suffering of the present. His poem captures the isolation, hopelessness, and dread of civilians in the heat of civil war. Its message of desolation and strife carries through generations. While Fan Qi dwells on natural beauty in an escapist style, Du Fu focuses on the coexisting realities of an elegant spring occurring alongside the destruction of his homeland.
Poem selection and label by Ava Friedlander ’20, Kela Harrington ’19, Lucy Liang ’17, Yuxiao Meng ’19