Thursday, August 13, 2015


My view when I leave my room (the guest room) at my parents' house is now a poster of a Chinese landscape. Therein lies a tale. The work 东山草堂图 (East Mountain thatched cottage view) is by the Yuan-dynasty master Wang Meng 王蒙, whom our family knows thanks to a historical novel about him written by British writer John Spurling, The Ten Thousand Things. I happened on the book at the Foreign Languages Bookshop on Fuzhou Road, and gave a Kindle copy to my mother for her birthday. She liked it enough that she gave it to my sister for her birthday. I finally read it on my last trip north. You should read it too! I've no idea if art historians, abroad or in China, read Wang Meng's paintings the way Spurling does, but I was grateful to be led into the a world of artworks I didn't before know how to appreciate - not to mention in a book of such exquisite intelligence and melancholy beauty. I found the poster also on Fuzhou Road, at a big art book store, after seeking in disappointed vain at the Shanghai and Nanjing Museum bookshops. Spanning coasts and continents, another copy of the poster waits to be put up in Brooklyn, my sister's reading her copy of Spurling's book and mine sits on the nightstand of my friend X in Shanghai.

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