by Zheng Xie

My home is a two-bay thatched cottage. I planted some bamboos on the south side. In the summer when young bamboos begin to grow tender leaves, and when shade begins to expand, I put a couch there to enjoy the cool. When autumn is changing into winter, I cut screen strips in pieces, fitting them on across the window as lattice, covering them with fine, white paper. On warm and sunny days, dumb flies bump against the paper, tom-tom, when bamboos cast on a soft, irregular silhouette. Isn't this a fantastic work? I didn't imitate anyone to paint. My bamboos are derived from windows, walls, sunlight and moonlight.

In a chilly autumn morning, I walked around the riverside inn where I stayed at to enjoy the sight of bamboos. Haze, morning light and vapor mingled and filtered through the branches and leaves. Ideas began to flash, and I was seized with a desire to paint. The bamboos that I wanted to paint, as a matter of fact, weren't about what I saw then. I made ink, unfolded the paper, and started to paint. The bamboos came out weren't what I had planed. We all make plans. However, what turns out is how chance works. This isn't limited to painting.

Wen Tong (a Tang painter) have thought-out plans before he started to paint. I have no plan at all. I paint banboos at easy - dark or light, sparsely or densely spaced, short or tall, thick or thin, or whatever. They are equally good at expression and senses. Merely a junior myself, I dare not to challenge old masters; however, having a plan or not actually makes no difference, though.

Zheng Xie (1693 - 1765)
ink on rice paper, private collection

Essays on Chinese painting

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