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Preparing Tea in the Shade of Plantain Trees

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Period: Dated 1945
Medium: Color and ink on paper
Format: Album leaf

Artist(s): Fu Baoshi (1904–1965)

Dimensions: Height: 32 cm; width: 37.2 cm

The artist’s inscription notes the date as the eighth month of the yiyou year (1945). Along with the inscription, two seals serve as additional signatures; they are a square seal with “Fu” (the artist’s surname) in relief, which shows the characters in vermillion ink, and a rectangular seal with “Frequently after Becoming Intoxicated” (Wangwang zuihou), also in relief.

As one of China’s agricultural specialties, tea is an indispensable part of daily life. Traditionally, Chinese people have considered firewood, rice, oil, salt, soy sauce, vinegar, and tea as seven daily necessities. Listed among these items, tea is clearly an important part of Chinese life. Literati and other noblemen developed the preparation and enjoyment of tea into a refined pastime, wherein they could cultivate their temperament. Throughout dynastic history, many painters have focused on tea-related themes and drawn attention to the pleasant lifestyle of the literati.

This scene is set in the Jiangnan region. Sunlight shines between the leaves of the plantain trees. A literatus sits in the shade fanning the fire of a tea brazier. The scholar’s attendant brings water.

The artist has captured the inner worlds of these figures in the painting and effectively portrays their focus. The leaves are depicted with broad swaths of color while the midrib and veins of each leaf are clearly defined. The mild colors employed show the artist’s skilled eye. Indeed, the verdant surroundings for this leisurely, elegant scene are aesthetically pleasing. The style of the respective aspects of the scene share a common underlying mood. The abundance of emotion and the vivid flora testify to the extraordinary artistry necessary to accomplish the work.

The Palace Museum received this work as a donation from Fu Baoshi’s wife Luo Shihui.

Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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