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47) Wen Cheng-ming (1470-1559). Handscroll, ink on paper, dated 1550. Wen Cheng-ming, a student of Shen Chou, was the leading exponent of the Wu School in the sixteenth century. Like his master, he worked in a wide range of styles. This painting, done when the painter was eighty years old, shows him working in the Yuan literati tradition of ink on paper. The subject matter, old trees and rocks, was a favorite of Wen s old age, the pine tree being a favorite literati symbol of long life and resistance to adversity. The painting was done as a gift to a young man who had taken ill after his failure at the examinations. Wen also inscribed the work with a poem, the intention of which is to cheer up the young man and encourage him to try again. Wen himself failed the civil service examinations ten times.

Crushed by snow, oppressed by frost, as the years and months pass,
Branches twisted, its crown bent down -- its strength is still majestic!
An old man remembers Tu-ling s words:
The cypress impressed the world even before revealing its rich bark pattern.

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