Zhang Gong’s Grotto is a well-known scenic cave in Jiangsu province. Named after the founder of religious Daoism, Zhang Daoling, it is considered a Blessed Place of Daoism. Countless Daoists and curious travelers flock there to witness the rumored wellsprings of nature’s creative energy.
Shitao’s painting and Chen Zuren’s poem explore these Daoist dimensions. The nine-meter long painting presents the sheer scale and exquisite details of the grotto, expressing a Daoist reverence for nature’s forces. Shitao’s inscription hints that his illustration might have captured some of nature’s magic. The poem by Chen complements these themes by acknowledging divine creation in a straightforward way. Where Chen praises the ingenuity of heaven’s art, Shitao presents the scene with skilled artistry.
The solitude of the painted figure by the grotto parallels allusions to Peach Blossom Spring, Tao Yuanming’s famous ideal realm. The figure admires the cave, isolated from the cacophony of countryside landscape, suggesting his rejoicement in natural wonders. By comparing the grotto to Peach Blossom Spring, Chen reveals the spiritual elevation of those who appreciate nature’s divine beauty.
Poem selection and label by Ava Friedlander ’20, Kela Harrington ’19, Lucy Liang ’17, Yuxiao Meng ’19