June 21, 2010
A Phoenix Comes to Visit
Hua Rende (華人德)
ink on paper, framed
The title of this piece, written in seal script in the upper left corner, reads you feng lai yi, or “A phoenix comes to visit.” The small characters below the title explain that the image is a rubbing from an Eastern Han dynasty pictorial stone. “A Phoenix Comes to Visit” is the title of a song attributed to King Cheng, second ruler of the Zhou dynasty (ca. 1100–256 BCE), and is written out to the immediate left of the title. It reads:
The phoenix flies to my purple courtyard.
What virtue do I have to attract this holy bird?
It is due to my ancestors' grace.
All the people are living in happiness and peace.
all of the animals dance in excitement.
The poem is then followed by an accompanying explanation:
The song, “A Phoenix Comes to Visit,” was written by King Cheng of the Zhou dynasty. After he became the king, the whole country was brought into good order. All of the auspicious signs of peace appeared: the Qilin and the Phoenix danced in the courtyard. Because of this great peace, the king played the zither and sang this song.
This is an excerpt from an exhibition catalogue I authored titled Reflections on Forgotten Surfaces: The Calligraphy of Hua Rende. Walla Walla, Washington: Donald H. Sheehan Gallery (Whitman College), 2005. Read an essay from that catalogue titled, “The Way Can Be Found in Bricks and Shards: Juxtapositions of Image, Text, and Calligraphic Style in the Work of Hua Rende.”