‘Do you really think you can eat those pies in the sky?’ — Lao Shu embarks upon the Year of the Dragon

The Other China



Lao Shu, having farewelled the Year of the Rabbit —

Reflects on life in the Year of the Dragon.


In this selection, the artist continues to contemplate strategies of survival and avenues of escape — into nature, into the heart-mind and through art. Recurrent themes are the abiding power of the artistic impulse and timelessness, topics that he discusses at length in an essay in ‘Intersecting with Eternity’, a mini anthology of essays and poems in our series The Tower of Reading.

— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
29 February 2024


Lao Shu, a recluse in the streams and clouds

translated by Geremie R. Barmé

Painting by Lao Shu, published on 18 February 2024

A recluse in the streams and clouds
Long divorced from the affairs of men
Sharing rather the realm of beasts
Toing and froing in the wilds

A world in chaos, full of bizarre people and the garbage Internet …
best make friends with mountain creatures.

— Painted by Lao Shu to record of the Start of Spring,
Jiachen Year of the Dragon


By Lao Shu, published on 19 February 2024


A gale gusts past as the rain beats down
This bitter winter is far too long
Just hoping for the flowers to blossom.

— seal of Lao Shu


Lao Shu, published on 20 February 2024

After Lunar New Year there’s nothing to do
So I hunker down at home
Have a bowl of instant noodles for lunch
Then me and my cat stare out at the plum blossoms

early spring in the Jiachen Year of the Dragon. Since the economy has withered and with businesses underperforming people are anxious and have no clue what the future holds. I painted this to record the moment.

‘It might be a thousand, or ten-thousand li away, but it stays on in my heart.’

painted in the middle of the night on a train from Shandong to Beijing.

— Lao Shu


Lao Shu, 21 February 2024

Empty mountains full of swirling mists,
Fine tea flourishing in the valley’s depths.
Freshly picked leaves await the visitors,
A sprig of blossom announces the season.

Having gone home for Spring Festival, I stayed indoors and painted this for my own amusement.

— Lao Shu


Lao Shu, 22 February 2024

The Man:

Got some shit to deal with, so no lying flat or copping out,
Best exude more positivity and stop all that grumbling.

The Bird:

Heard it all before — have some self-respect.
Do you really think you can eat those pies in the sky?
Just cut the crap when you’re talking to me.

A little something to remember the end of the Year of the Rabbit.

— Lao Shu


Lao Shu, 23 February 2024

It’s just the way the world is
Joyful one moment, bereft the next
The plum flowers regardless,
Sit there, watch the snowflakes dance

It’s already late winter in the Year of the Rabbit.

— Lao Shu


Lao Shu, 25 February 2024

And what then for the new year?
Mountain-like barriers await
To rail against it all, day in day out,
Better to chill out with the flowers, dead drunk

I was given a large bowl of seal paste one winter’s day late in the Year of the Rabbit, so I made this painting to record the occasion.

— Lao Shu


Lao Shu, 27 February 2024


Today, ever free at heart,
Just like those of yore.
A single thought-crime, though,
And it’s straight into the slammer.

— seal of Lao Shu