Washing the Feet (from the Dusty World)

Washing the Feet (from the Dusty World)


Wen Boren 文伯仁

(Chinese, 1502-1575)

Hanging scroll mounted on a panel, ink and color on paper

Image: 170.2 x 79.4 cm (67 x 31 1/4 in.)

Bequest of Mrs. A. Dean Perry 1997.103



A scholar on a boat in the middle ground bathes his feet in the cooling stream. The vast river scene is depicted from a high viewing point. The motif of a scholar washing his feet illustrates the phrase, “When the waters of the Canglang are clear, I wash my capstrings. When the waters of the Canglang are muddy, I wash my feet [only]” (from Songs of Chu, written before 256 BC). The passage evokes the image of the virtuous scholar-official who avoids government service when the ruler is corrupt (the rivers are muddy) and resumes service (washing my capstrings) when the waters are clear. Whether the artist here alludes to unfavorable times of government is not clear.

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