With one seal of the artist, 水松石山房 Shuisongshi shanfang (‘The Water, Pine and Stone Retreat’)
The Mind Garden of the Yunnan Wanderer
Inscribed by the Master of the Water Pine and Stone Retreat in the mist-bound spring of 2015
With two seals of the artist, 水松石山房Shuisongshi shanfang (‘TheWater, Pine and Stone Retreat’) and 攜杖老人 Xiezhang laoren (‘The old man who carries the staff’)
Song Bridge I spent part of the early Ming dynasty with the Yunnan Wanderer. As a rule he preferred the peripatetic life, although he had a home in the mountains of Yunnan where I first met him as the Ming dynasty settled in for the usual cycle of establishment, glory and collapse. Wandering Companion He liked to roam unfettered and free of care, carrying only such possessions as he could conveniently take with him, which consisted mainly of his walking staff, the clothes he wore, and a gourd for wine and a coconut-shell drinking cup tied to his belt, the cup attached by a small gold buckle. The gold, he explained, in case he ever visited some urban centre and needed money – he never did.
Idle Chat Many years later he visited me in my retreat in the gentle mountains of Zhejiang and stayed for a few years. He had always been a Stone Fool, one of the many things that brought us together, and enjoyed seeking them out on trips into the mountains but he never kept any. Instead he held his collection of strange stones entirely in his mind, the six largest of which stood in an imaginary garden in an imaginary home. Embracing the Universe He spoke of this home frequently and his accounts were consistent enough to show that it existed for him as a reality. Set beside a river in the foothills of the south, it was a mansion by eremitic standards with three separate pavilions and an open, thatched meditation hut on a rocky promontory overlooking the river. Sitting Stone Behind the buildings was a garden surrounded by a tile-topped wall cut with different shaped openings were he kept his more monumental stones. He was from the forests of the damp south, where everything was permanently covered in lichen, so his imagined stones were also green. He clearly knew the appearance of each down to the last perforation and promontory. For him the garden and his estate were as real as my home was to me, but without the upkeep. Above it All Often as the sun was setting, and we would gaze out across the gorge sipping Plum Wine and idly chatting, he would recall his stones and where they stood in the garden, how they were placed in relation to sheltering trees and where each had been found although, as he pointed out, being a Mind Garden he was spared the task of moving them physically into place.
I think I spent as many delightful hours viewing the imaginary stones in his other-worldly garden as I did viewing real stones, such was his mastery of description and commitment to their reality in his mind.
So today I paint the garden and his stones from memory - my own and his as he described each stone to me adding their names and personalities.
Inscribed by the Master of the Water, Pine and Stone Retreat at the Garden at the Edge of the Universe in the spring of 2015.
With ten seals of the artist, 山外山樵 Shanwai shanqiao (‘The mountain woodcutter who is not in the mountains’), 養石閒人 Yangshi xianren (‘An idler who cherishes stones’), 石 Shi (‘Stone’), 誠 Cheng (‘Sincere’), 竹虛 老人Zhuxu laoren (‘Old man as Empty Inside as Bamboo'), 人磨墨墨磨人 Renmomo momoren (‘Man grinds the ink; ink grinds the man’), 石狂 Shikuang (‘Stone Fool’), 水松石山房Shuisongshi shanfang (‘TheWater, Pine and Stone Retreat’), 偶然得之 Ouran dezhi (‘Achieved by accident’), and 意氣如雲 Yiqi ru yun (‘Spirit as high as the clouds’).