Grace and resilience

For the literati, maturity came in appreciating human feelings and the facts of life. They sought pleasure in friendship, in the charm of small and passing things, and the moment of art. This was tempered by awareness of the brevity and limits of human life. In the face of adversity they sought calm; in manner, elegance was conceived as a hardy companion for all seasons.

Adversity came in both dramatic and quiet ways.

There were epic catastrophes - social collapse, civil war, invasion. These overwhelmed individuals and swept away settled life, placing the elite in situations demanding sacrifice or moral compromise. More mundanely individuals faced aging, disease and death at all times.

Literati creative practice confronted adversity unflinchingly, focusing on psychic and emotional aspects, and without taking a 'better in the next world' position. Beneath this ran deep currents of Confucian frankness and Taoist stoicism.

XIAO Yuncong 蕭雲從 (1596-1673)
Winter landscape (dated 1669)
Album of 10 leaves, ink and colour on paper
26 x 31 cm
Private collection