The Woodcutter’s Wife

No visit to Berlin is complete without a short train ride to the Dahlem Museums (g), which are located in the leafy suburb of the same name. The Museum of East Asian Art is small but first-rate. Here is one of the works on display, a calendar page painted by Diang Liangxian which illustrates the 'fourth to sixth months': 

Ding Lianxian Calendar Leaf: Illustration of the fourth to sixth month

This calendar leaf is part of a collection of 'Kaempfer Prints,' late 17th-century Chinese woodcuts bought in Nagasaki during 1690-92 by a German physician named Engelbert Kaempfer, who was working for a Dutch company. The catalog entry translates one of the short poems:

The scene on the upper left, the fourth month, depicts a man carrying a hoe, his brow furrowed as he takes leave from woman who sadly watches his departure [from] the window of a humble abode. The accompanying poem explains the scene:

The lotus flowers in the fourth month.

Once upon a time Mai Chen carried firewood for sale

Because his wife bestowed her favors on others all too freely,

The couple went their separate ways.

Is it just me, or does the woman 'sadly' watching Mai Chen's departure seem to be smiling?

3 thoughts on “The Woodcutter’s Wife

  1. It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I’m sure you had fun writing this article. Excellent entry! I’m been looking for topics as interesting as this. Looking forward to your next post.

    Like

  2. It’s always nice when you can not only be informed, but also entertained! I’m sure you had fun writing this article. Excellent entry! I’m been looking for topics as interesting as this. Looking forward to your next post.

    Like

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