The magical utopia that poet Tao Yuanming (365–427) wrote about in 421 comes to life in Listening to the Moon. Zhu Xiuli, born in Shanghai in 1938, moved to Anhui Province to get away from the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976) in Nanjing. His new approaches to traditional Chinese painting, paired with Li Bai’s poem Dialogue in the Mountains, present the viewer with an ideal, reclusive life. Writing about his reasons for staying in the sapphire hills, Li alludes to Peach Blossom Spring, Tao Yuanming’s famous ideal world.
When Li Bai alludes to Tao Yuanming in his work, he emphasizes his happiness in reclusion. Li Bai lived during the Tang dynasty’s (618–907) most prosperous times. His poetry reflects the optimistic atmosphere he lived in. Looking at these two works together, the viewer discovers something more than a beautiful, peaceful setting. It is also magical, and exactly what the figure in the painting has been searching for. These works are a love letter to nature, a thank you for making someone’s heart feel at peace after such intense times of turmoil. Nature is the magical utopia that resolves all problems. These two works combined share that message with the viewer.
Poem selection and label by Ava Friedlander ’20