Poetry Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion
Poetry Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion

Poetry Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion

Nakabayashi Chikkei (Japanese, 1816-1867)

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In 353, the celebrated calligrapher Wang Xizhi invited 41 scholar-poets to the Orchid Pavilion (Lanting) for the annual Spring Purification Festival. Guests sat along a meandering stream while servants floated cups of wine downstream. Any poet who failed to compose a poem by the time his cup reached him was made to drink a "penalty cup," leading before long to a creative state of inebriation. Wang collected the poems and then wrote his famous Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Compilation. Immortalized in Chinese painting as a paragon of refined scholarly pleasure, the Lanting gathering was adopted as a subject and revered especially by Japanese painters of the Nanga School.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)
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In the year 353, during the Chinese Eastern Jin dynasty, the celebrated calligrapher Wang Xizhi invited forty-one scholar-poets to the Orchid Pavilion, the Lanting, for the annual Spring Purification Festival. Following tradition, on the third day of the third moon, Wang seated his guests along a meandering stream while servants floated cups of wine downstream. Any poet who failed to compose a poem by the time his cup reached him was made to drink a ""penalty cup."" Before long, the poets reached a creative state of inebriation. Wang collected all the poems, then wrote his famous Lanting jixu, or Preface to the Orchid Pavilion Compilation.

Immortalized in Chinese painting as a paragon of refined scholarly pleasure, the Lanting gathering was adopted and revered by Japanese artists, especially by the painters of the Nanga School. This informal affiliation of artists paid homage to the Chinese wenren tradition of depicting nature's inner rhythms with deliberate plainness-a practice in continuous evolution.

The works of Chikkei, the elder son of the painter Chikut?, display meticulous brushwork and a striking sense of design. This painting arms his ability to render both figures and landscapes. The somber, dignified faces and demeanor of the scholars suggest the refinement of the gathering-or perhaps the wine has not yet freed the guests from their poetic inhibitions.

Although there was no music from string or wind instruments, the drink and the recitation of poems were more than enough to express our exquisite feelings.
-Wang Xizhi, 353 CE
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Purchased by the Indianapolis Museum of Art in 2000.

Object Information

artist
Nakabayashi Chikkei (Japanese, 1816-1867)
period
Edo
creation date
1816-1867
materials
ink, color and gofun on silk
dimensions
58-7/8 x 22-3/8 in. (image)
85-1/2 x 30 in. (overall)
mark descriptions
Signed: Chikkei Hayashi Narishige (rin seigyo) ga
Seal: Seigyo no in
Seal: azana Shofu
accession number
2000.21
credit line
Mr. and Mrs. Richard Crane Fund
copyright
Public Domain
collection
Asian Art
colors

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