A chirimen silk gift cloth featuring the Chinese poet Rinnasei with two cranes, under a large plum tree branch. Yuzen-dyeing with sagara and regular embroidery. Very good condition, with several small stains. 26" x 30". Chinese poet Rinnasei (Ch.Lin Ho Tsing, Lin Ho-Ching, Lin Bu or Lin Hejing) was born in AD 967 in an old and well-known Confucian family in the city of Hangzhou, China. When he was young, Rinnasei toured many places but later returned to Hangzhou, disillusioned with the court, the political situation, and his own ambition of becoming an official through imperial examinations. He began to live an impoverished life of the scholar-gentleman on a wilderness island on West Lake. Rinnasei cleared the weeds, planted 300 plum trees, and raised cranes while writing. He earned a meager living by selling plum trees. A bachelor, Rinnasei acquired the reputation of the plum trees taking the place of a wife, and the cranes as his children.
In the ensuing twenty years he never set foot in the nearby city of Hangzhou. He enjoyed wide fame despite his seclusion from society. After his death, Rinnasei was conferred with the honorific title, “Sir He-jing” by the Chinese emperor.
His eccentric attitude and his works retained a vivid place in Song cultural imagination and later works. Rinnasei's example inspired an entire cult of the plum tree during the Southern Song Period... Wang Mian, a 14th century Yuan painter, exclusively painted plum trees to metaphorize his own lonely stand in a barbarian-ruled world. Now we shift to Japan: 'nanga' is a term broadly used to indicate an eighteenth-century Japanese painting style inspired by the ideals of the Chinese literati. This foreign influence entered Japan during the Edo period , despite the country's self-imposed isolation of the time.
In philosophy, Japanese Nanga artists followed the path of the Chinese literati, scholars who dedicated their lives to the pursuit of knowledge and the arts of poetry, music, and painting. Their artistic productions were intended to express noble thoughts rather than copy external reality and were meant for personal pleasure; their desire to emulate the bohemian, reclusive lifestyle of Chinese scholar-painters; and to pay respect to the Confucian moral code and the Daoist esteem for eccentricity and individuality. Many Japanese literati art-works such as this fukusa portray idealized visions of scholarly life in China, a life many artists longed for as they endured increasingly restrictive shogun government policies. Many of their paintings express a desire to emulate the Chinese literati custom of retreating into the countryside during periods of troubled leadership and political unrest. Urban dwellers in Edo Japan appreciated such idyllic views of country life because, even then, Japan was a crowded, urbanized nation. Scenes on many of the 18th and 19th centuries of this style, such as this one with the elderly gentleman Rinnasei with his cranes, were considered appropriate as gifts for elderly gentlemen on their birthdays, expressive of wishes for long, happy lives. Following is one of the few poems that Rinnasei left behind, as most of his work purposefully was left to perish. The poem was inspired by the smell of fresh plum blossoms: " When everything has faded they alone shine forth,
encroaching on the charms of smaller gardens.
Their scattered shadows fall lightly on clear water,
their subtle scent pervades the moonlit dusk.
Snowbirds look again before they land,
butterflies would faint if they but knew.
Thankfully I can flirt in whispered verse,
I don't need a sounding board or winecup."