Poem with Peony | 牡丹詩

TitlePoem with Peony | 牡丹詩
ArtistHou Beiren
MediumInk and colour on paper
Dimensions69.1 x 137 cm
ProvenanceDonated by Hou Beiren and Zhang Yunqin in June 2020
CollectionUniversity Museum and Art Gallery, HKU
InscriptionHou Beiren painted this peony and made this inscription at the Old Apricot Villa at the age of 98, 18 March 2008, midnight.
SealsHou Beiren Seal (square intaglio), Hou (circle relief), Beriren (circle intaglio), Old Apricot Villa (square relief), Thoughts of You Like Flowing Water (square relief), Old Apricot Villa Hou Beiren Painted after Ninety Calligraphy and Painting Seal (square relief)

In the inscription, Hou Beiren recalls two poems from the Tang and Song dynasty he has paired with a painting of a peony.

The first poem, attributed to the Song dynasty scholar Su Shi (1037-1101), reads:

The flowers have all been pruned and grow brilliant. Tenderly awaiting an envoy who arrived and said nothing made the flowers hate him. Next year they won't likely bloom.

Su Shi's Poem with Peony. Hou Beiren painted a peony and made this inscription in the Old Apricot Villa at the age of 98, 18 March 2008, midnight.

The second poem reads:

To where did spring slip away? Raising my glass, I ask the flowers. I spent all day asking, but they said nothing. For whom are they falling? For whom are they blooming?

This second poem is also attributed to Su Shi, though it is more likely based on a Tang dynasty poem by Yan Yun.