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32) Ch'ien Hsuan (ca. 1235-1301). Pear Blossoms. Handscroll; ink and color on paper. Yiian dynasty. Ch'ien Hsiian, like Cheng Ssu-hsiao, was a "leftover" literatus, a Sung official left unemployed by the Mongol invasions, who turned to a life of seclusion. He was, unlike Cheng, a major painter. He inherited, yet at the same time reacted against, the now defunct Academy style and struggled to bring new forms and meanings to painting. At first sight, this short handscroll looks like many examples of Southern Sung Academy "birds and flowers" works. Yet the author's poem at the left reveals that Ch'ien Hsiian has used references to early literature to co-opt the image for the expression of his political ideals. The poem reads:

The lonely tear-stained face, teardrops washing the branches.
Though now without makeup, her old charms remain.
Behind the closed gate, on a rainy night, how she is filled with sadness,
How differently she looked bathed in golden waves of moonlight, before darkness fell.

The first two lines allude to Emperor T'ang Ming-huang's famous courtesan, Yang Kuei-fei, whom the emperor was forced to execute during a rebellion in 756 (see No. 16 above). A subsequent poet compared her tears to raindrops on a pear blossom. The executed courtesan thus stands for the loss of country to invading non-Chinese forces. In Ch'ien's composition, poem and image are linked together. The pear blossoms stands for Yang Kuei-fei, who in turn stands for those Sung officials who now "behind closed gates" and "filled with sadness" have lost the security of the Sung dynasty and the happiness of their situation "before darkness fell.

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