In January 2023, we ushered in the Year of the Rabbit in the company of the Beijing-based artists Lao Shu and Huang Yongyu. Yongyu passed away in June 2023 at the age of ninety-nine. Lao Shu, a presence throughout the year, now helps us farewell the Year of the Rabbit and confront the Year of the Dragon. See:
- The Tail-end of Tiger Tyranny, 20 January 2023
- Now What? — Greeting the Guimao Year of the Rabbit 癸卯兔年, 21 January 2023
- Rabbiting on with Lao Shu, 23 January 2023
- ‘I am not nostalgic, I want to remember.’ — Lao Shu, spring 2023, 20 March 2023
- Yongyu, ave atque vale, 15 June 2023
- Lao Shu’s Fall, 12 December 2023
- Lao Shu’s New Year, 4 January 2024
China Heritage marked the last day of 2023 in the company of Lao Shu 老樹, among others. We featured a painting by the Beijing-based artist with the following inscription:
It’s a nightmare out there,
assholes wherever you go.
I’ll just hang at home and
enjoy the company of a cuddly cat.
— from You Want It Darker — Farewell 2023, Roll in 2024, 31 December 2023
Having welcomed the year 2024 with The Obsessions of Zhang Dai and drawn salutary lessons about politics from the past, here we find refuge once more in the company of Lao Shu as he bids farewell to the Year of the Rabbit.
The rubric of this chapter in The Other China — 蘤開華落自有時, ‘the flowers blossom and fall all in due season’, an observation on mutability and time itself — comes from a ci-lyric poem by Yan Rui 嚴蘂, a female poet of the Southern Song dynasty:
In the first painting below, Lao Shu returns to a recurrent theme of his work: the abiding artistic impulse and timelessness. He discusses the same theme at length in an essay that is included in ‘Intersecting with Eternity’, a topic in our series The Tower of Reading.
In the lead-up to that new series, and the Year of the Dragon, we published the following:
- An Ambitious Dragon’s Nightmare, 26 January 2024
— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
31 January 2024
Painting is just that, painting,
Forget ancient and modern, East and West.
Pay attention to the mindscape and
Don’t get caught up in the brushstrokes.
Avoid above all being too precious about your work,
For real art is something that belongs to eternity.
No ancient, no modern, no other, I say,
Just travel in all directions without fear.
— Lao Shu, autumn, the Guimou Year of the Rabbit
During this half-lived life of mine
I’ve already had an eyeful of human folly
Now I understand why the landscapes of
The old masters are so desolate and sparse
— Lao Shu, late autumn in the Guimou Year
Although things aren’t going all that well
I say, don’t despair, friend.
The plum will always bore through rock
So that it may blossom in your heart.
I made this painting at a moment when I was feeling particularly isolated following a snowstorm in the winter of the Guimao Year. Troubled by the overall state of affairs I was also unsettled by the fact that people are feeling so deflated. Whenever friends get together we exchange stories about our personal woes and offer each other whatever comfort we can.
I made this to record the temper of our times as the wind was howling outside.
Finally some time off work and hard-won time to myself.
My cat is sleeping soundly as I stare at the blossoms.
— a painting and inscription by Lao Shu at a quiet moment in the winter of the Guimao Year
Year’s end and people ask me how much I make.
That is a question that’s sure to offend.
Better just have a glass of boiled water,
And scroll for things on my phone in bed.
— a painting and inscription by Lao Shu in the winter of the Guimao Year, when I was in a bit of a mood
The world is out of joint and danger lurks in all directions.
Travelling the highways and byways with my pot of flowers,
My heart is set on good.
— Lao Shu, late winter, the Guimao Year
Every bloke let loose in the world
Is sure to have some drinking companions.
They can’t always all get together,
But when they do the booze flows freely.
— Lao Shu, winter, the Guimao Year
It’s been a really tough year and
The Lunar New Year is upon us.
I nod off under the plum blossoms and
Make money hand over fist in my dreams.
— painted by Lao Shu in the winter at the end of the Guimao Year