Master of the Lotus Garden

Bada Shanren (八大山人) (1626-1705)

I researched a little into the chinese painting on the theme of lotus. And this artist from the Qing period use lotus as a personal symbol in his paintings. As part of his life was devoted to buddhism, to be “in the lotus” as Bada Shanren liked to think of himself, was to be always within spiritual realm of the Buddhist dharma.

Quoting from the book, Master of the lotus garden. The life and art of Bada Shanren:
“Rising pristine and lovely from its broad, sheltering leaves, the lotus is rooted in the mud and the filth of the pond, lifting itself up into the pure air. Later in the autumn, battered by the wind, it sinks back into the water to begin anew the cycle of rebirth and growth. This journey, from filth to purity, is easily understood from both a Buddhist and a Confucian point of view and may be said to be a metaphor of any spiritual, philosophical or a metaphysical life.”

“Bada Shanren made hidden images of the lotus. A few bits of blossoms, a flower seen from below, dark masses of shadowy leaves, as though someone had made a photograph while aiming the camera in slightly the wrong direction.
“I once saw in the heart of the lotus seed,
That the lotus flower had its roots.
At Ruoya splitting the lotus pod,
It is the young gentleman in the painting.”
**The poem is about the relationship of heart-mind (xin) to roots or origins, and Bada Shanren, the gentlemen. He noted in 1693 that people and objects are the same, that is, objects or things (wu) are symbols of men. Here he is anticipating that observation by telling us clearly that he is the gentleman in the lotus. It is for him, the rich associations of the lotus drawn from religion, history, literature and human lives were a very personal embodiment of his own life and personality.”

It is often that the lotus he painted were reflection of his face and his mind at that moment. It is a good reference/review and inspiration for the last flower project. In a way, the project is greatly influence by how he relate lotus, buddhism and himself with art and philosophy.


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