Painting Poetry: Su Dong Po

Inside every poem is a painting; inside every painting, a poem.
– Old Chinese saying

Su Dongpo (Shu Shi, 1036-1101) was renowned poet of the Northern Song period. He was also an esteemed painter, calligrapher and scholar of the arts. He wrote glowingly of scholar-painters who could imbue their paintings with poetry, making them superior to paintings that merely conveyed outward appearances.

Shu would surely have approve of this late painting by an anonymous late Song artist which beautifully captures the essence of his classic poem, “On a painting of Wang by the clerk of Yen Ling.”

On a Painting of Wang by Shu Dong Po

The slender bamboo is like a hermit.
The simple flower, a maiden.
The sparrow tilts on the branch;
A gust of rain sprinkles the flowers.
He spreads his wings to fly,
And shakes all the leaves.
The bees gathering honey
Are trapped in the nectar.
What a wonderful talent
That can create an entire spring

With a brush and a sheet of paper.
If he would try poetry
I know he would be a master of words.

Loquats and Mountain Bird, anonymous painter of the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279).

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