As a symbol of perseverance, honorability, and adaptability, bamboo is considered a ‘gentleman’ plant. Both Zheng Xie’s painting, Bamboo and Rocks, and Bai Juyi’s poem, “The Bamboo By Li Ch’e Yun’s Window,” explore the symbolic relationships between bamboo and its surroundings. Zheng Xie lived in the Qing-Dynasty (1644-1912) and Bai Juyi in the Tang-Dynasty (618-907). Both progressed through examination systems to become officials, yet remained in touch with their art.
The painting celebrates the stark yet gentle features of bamboo. Straight and light strokes reveal the bamboo’s clear strength. Despite the cleancut sturdiness of bamboo, it still holds a soft essence, as its symbolic title, ‘gentleman,’ suggests. The rocks blend with the bamboo, yet the bamboo seems more prominent, emphasizing its individuality while maintaining harmony with its surroundings. The inscription suggests the bamboo’s ability to withstand the seasons. The poem highlights the uniqueness of the bamboo’s individual beauty and adaptability, while offering uses for the bamboo as a practical tool. It advises that the most important aspect is its grace and ability to enhance its surroundings. The poem ends, “it will be beautiful under the falling snow flakes,” showcasing the bamboo’s harmonious relationship with its environment.
Poem selection and label by Francesca Harrison ‘19, Diana Chen ‘17, and Beatrice Hesselbart ‘20