Poem on Plum

Poem on Plum

매화시 (梅花詩)

1500s

Yi Hwang

(Korean, 1501-1570)

Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Overall: 115 x 68.2 cm (45 1/4 x 26 7/8 in.); Painting only: 46 x 52.7 cm (18 1/8 x 20 3/4 in.)

Seventy-fifth anniversary gift of The Honorable Joseph P. Carroll and Roberta Carroll, M.D. 1992.138

Description

For Yi Hwang, a celebrated scholar and poet in 16th-century Korea, writing poems was an escape from partisan politics. Because its flowers often bloom in the middle of winter, Joseon period Korean scholars like Yi found plum blossoms a perfect subject to express the value of endurance and self-cultivation. In his numerous poems, Yi used plum blossom imagery to express his feelings. The poem on this hanging scroll reads: “Wishing to fly away, red leaves left the mountain villa. Their large sleeves are frosted due to blue clouds. The clouds in the sky look upright, which are beyond human beings’ ability. The plum tree whispered to me that [the leaves] fell from the wind and landed on the fence.” The mountain villa in this poem may refer to the Dosan Academy, a Confucian school that Yi established after his retirement, and the red leaves of the plum blossom are probably Yi’s poetic personification.

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