‘Chinese Gardens,’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Yuan Jiang’s “Palace of Nine Perfections” (1691), a set of 12 hanging scrolls of inked and colored silk. Photo: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
In the early fifth century, the Chinese poet Tao Yuanming, who called himself Tao Qian, Recluse Tao, thus described his life. Born into a politically illustrious family in decline, he felt compelled as a young man to enter government service. A mistake. The career felt like one long wrestling match with corruption.
Finally, at 40, fed up with bowing and scraping for crumbs, he ditched the job and took off for the country, where he stayed for good, reading, drinking, thinking, writing under five tall willows and raising chrysanthemums. He fretted at times that he had shirked his public duties, tarnished his name. But the garden felt good. Small and enclosed, it was the world in which his spirit opened.
To anyone strolling through the Chinese painting galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art this summer, the world itself looks like a garden of infinite expansion. That’s the impression given by the 80 paintings and objects that make up the exhibition called “Chinese Gardens: Pavilions, Studios, Retreats.” Drawn from the museum’s deep holdings, it’s a show about paradises lost and found; about nature blooming and fading; about cosmological events transpiring in backyard bamboo groves.
You can read the full article via NY Times here.
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