Monday, August 02, 2010

Painting a Chinese Poem

River Snow, a classical Chinese poem, is a 4x5, ie. 4 lines of 5 Chinese characters each. Written by Liu Zong Yuan (773-819)of Tang dynasty. Classical poems, relative to ancient poems, are a modern form of poems.

Characterized by their specific "templates" ( 4x5, 8x5; 4x8, 8x8 ) and the specific rhyme requirements,whereby poets had to create a new world within the restrictions.

"River Snow" is one of my favourite, an essence of the fine boundary between Chinese poems and Chinese paintings, where the two can be one, existing in different forms.

Decided to ignore the grammatical rules of the English language, so as to keep as close to as possible, the original flavour of the Chinese poem/Chinese language, especially the visual, objective montage effect.


A thousand of mountains/birds' flight/none
Tens of thousands of paths/human traces/extinguished
Lone boat/straw-caped/old man/
Fishing alone/cold/river snow

The Chinese language, void of the burden of grammar, could therefore produce a montage effect and neat parallelism (depicted by the colours as shown) in poems.

A thousand of mountains(wide angle)/ flight of birds(zoom in)/none(movement)
Tens of thousands of paths(wide angle)/footprints of human(zoom in)/extinguished(movement)
Lone boat(zoom in)/straw-caped(movement)/old man(movement)/
Fishing alone(zoom in)/cold(touch)/river snow(wide angle)

Poet Liu painted a painting of snow-covered river in a poem, using many layers of visual contrast....

A thousand of mountains(vastness)/ flight of birds(minute)/none(stillness)
Tens of thousands of paths(vastness)/footprints of human(minute)/extinguished(stillness)
Lone boat(minute)/straw-caped(movement, snowing thus the cape)/old man(minute)
Fishing alone(movement)/cold(feel)/river snow(vastness)

A thousand of mountains(white)flight of birds(white sky)/none
Tens of thousands of paths(white)/footprints of human(white)/extinguished
Lone boat(a dab of colour)/straw-caped(a dab of colour)old man(a dab of colour)
Fishing alone/cold(white)/river snow(white) evoke a tenacious sense of solitude.

A thousand of mountains(stillness/silence)/ flight of birds(stillness/silence)/none(stillness/silence)
Tens of thousands of paths(stillness/silence)/footprints of human(stillness/silence)/extinguished(stillness/silence)
Lone boat(stillness/silence/solitude)/straw-caped(movement)old man(stillness/silence/solitude)
Fishing alone(movement and stillness/silence/solitude)/cold(solitude)/river snow(stillness/silence)