Grandeur, abundance, panache

In a life generally defined by discretion, ostentatious objects and gestures may at first appear to be wrong steps. However, they are an essential part of the total literati strategy; with a concern for experiencing all kinds of emotions and sensations hardly anything is clearly prohibited in all circumstances.

In the well-lived life, grand and expansive acts can express the vastness of wild nature or the heroic portion of the psyche. The pomp and circumstance of temple and court make emotionally palpable an imagined idea of community, with costumed participants acting out roles that impress and reassure. At a more intimate level, rich mountings and elaborately crafted boxes are small gestures paying obeisance to their contents.

In literati art itself, expansive approaches to painting and calligraphy also suggest larger flows of energy and power, often understood as those of primeval nature itself. The thrill in viewing such pieces is to follow the trace of a monumental dance, the appreciation tending to the sublime. One follows such performances as acts of knife-edge balance, tittering between aplomb and insight, poor taste and foolishness.

 Suzhou, Doorway of private compound