Quatrain on spring’s radiance

Artist: Empress Yang Meizi (Chinese, 1162–1232)

Period: Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279)

Date: early 13th century

Culture: China

Medium: Round fan mounted as an album leaf; ink on silk

Dimensions: Image: 9 1/8 x 9 5/8 in. (23.2 x 24.4 cm)

Classification: Calligraphy

Credit Line: Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988

Accession Number: 1989.363.12


During the Southern Song, artists and connoisseurs who wished to express their emotional responses to paintings frequently added poems to them. Empress Yang's poems appear on a number of paintings by court artists such as Ma Yuan (active ca. 1190–1225) and Ma Lin (active ca. 1180–after 1256). This quatrain must once have complemented a fan painting of flowers, but it reveals more about the empress' state of mind than about the lost painting it accompanied:

My makeup worn and faded, only the scent lingers;
Still I shall enjoy spring's beauty before my eyes.
Once you said to me, "How a year blooms quickly and as quickly dies!
May we now forsake worldly splendors for the land of wine?"