fisherman riding on a boat and playing a flute at lower right corner; three people inside a building just below center at left edge; mountains in background

Zhou Dunyi Gazing Out Over Lotus, c. 1500

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Paintings by Liu Jun, a court painter and a figural specialist, are noted for their capacity to create arresting visual narratives that are often imbued with complex symbolic meanings. This large riverside scene is a rare landscape by this artist, but the true subject of the painting is the famous Song philosopher Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073). Liu depicts him staring out the open window of his waterside retreat across a bed of lotus, his concentration broken by the melancholy flute playing of a solitary fisherman. The lotus is a visual reference to his best-known text, “On the Love of the Lotus,” in which he observed that the lotus emerges from the mud but is not defiled by it, embodying ideals of noble purity and unflinching courage.

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Chou Tun-I Gazing Out Over Lotus (#182)
Details
Title
Zhou Dunyi Gazing Out Over Lotus
Artist Life
active c. 1475 – c. 1505
Role
Artist
Accession Number
98.217
Curator Approved

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fisherman riding on a boat and playing a flute at lower right corner; three people inside a building just below center at left edge; mountains in background