Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 15: Guide to capturing a quince blossom

I recently picked up a copy of Red Pine's translation of Guide to Capturing a Plum Blossom, by Sung Po-jen, first published in 1238. Not a typo--this was written in China almost 800 years ago. The concept: 100 paintings of plum blossoms in varying stages, from Covered Buds to Forming Fruit. Each painting is accompanied by a poem that refers to the plum blossom's physical appearance, as well as many layers of associated cultural and political symbolism. Really, some quite lovely political critiques.
Sung Po-jen was clearly obsessed with revealing the essence of his subject, and he was so successful that later painters didn't bother to study the real thing anymore--they just memorized his book and its 100 stages.
Reading this book has made me look at my flowering quince's ruffled, peach-colored blossoms with new eyes.
Radiant blossoms--
plum or quince inspire poets
of any era.

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