Pine trees stand tall and sturdy, as they are able to remain green and lively during even the harshest of winters. Thus, the pine tree has become a symbol of longevity and endurance in Chinese culture. In Liu Haisu’s The Pine Tree, he explores this symbolism by making the pine the focal point of his painting. The void background of this painting could be anything. It depicts the strength of the tree to withstand whatever conditions it exists within. This sense of endurance is enhanced by the inscription. It is from Liu Haisu to his friend, stating “Evergreen for thousands of years,” commenting on the lasting nature of their friendship, as well as longevity in both friendship and the pine in nature. The theme is applicable to Liu Haisu himself as he lived through the end of the Qing Dynasty, the rise of the People’s Republic of China, the Cultural Revolution, and many other events that could have greatly shifted his life, yet he remained himself despite changing times.
Poet Song Zhiwen in the Tang Dynasty wrote the poem On Old Zhang’s Pine Tree, which goes in depth about shifting times more literally with mentions of ending the year, a sun setting, and a cooling desolate environment. These factors all add a strong emphasis on the changing outside environment that impact the pine. Thus upon mentioning the large pine, it hints at its extreme endurance.
Poem Selection and label by Francesca Harrison ’19