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PREFACE

Moonlight (1967) 37.5x30cm

During the unforgettable Cultural Revolution, I was Just an untried youth, a teacher of Chinese art at the Suzhou Fine Arts Institute At that time, if we were not parading in the streets or cheering for revolutionary victories, we were shut up in classrooms studying the quotations and works of Mao. During this tumultuous decade. I really did not know what to do. After much difficulty, I finally obtained certification issued by the headquarters of the Red Guards that my family background belong to the category of "small business owners of the exploiting class." I then joined a journey on foot with fellow students to establish revolutionary ties; with our feet covered with blisters after meandering back and forth all the way up to Beijing, we finally by good luck caught the tail end of those allowed to join an assembly surveyed by the Red Sun in Tiananmen Square. While waiting for this sacred moment, I hurriedly took out a notebook with a red cover and drew several stirring sketches.
Later, back in Suzhou, after violence broke out, I could only timidly hide out at home. In the evening there were often scattered sounds of gunshots and shouting which disturbed my sleep. Late one night, the sound of gunshots woke me up yet again, and when I opened my eyes, I was struck by the rays of moonlight filling the room. I immediately got up, fumbled around for my painting materials in the darkness and painted this beautiful moonlight in water and ink,
My father, who slept in the adjoining room, asked me the next morning, "What were you doing at midnight last night? Why was there so much noise?" I was just painting". My father was puzzled, and I had to explain that if I turned on the light, I would have chased away this moonlight that had filled the room with brightness.

Paddy Fields in the Fog (1975) 39x27cm

Life at the May 7th Cadre School was monotonous and repetitive, and there was very little in the surrounding landscape that appealed to me. I could not work up any enthusiasm for the flat fields or straight trees. On one vacation day, when I was on duty and could not go home, I got up early and opened the window of the dormitory. I could only see a thick autumn fog enveloping everything outside, which gradually diffused until the usually monotonous Cadre School paddy fields, at times hidden by the fog and at times revealed, suddenly became enigmatic and mystical. I immediately used water and ink to record my impressions. This fresh, simple and moving scene of incorporeal beauty truly embodies the spirit that I have strived to capture in my paintings for many years.

On the Yangtze River (1971) 27x15cm

At the height of the Cultural Revolution, the first major bridge to be designed and constructed solely by Chinese was built across the mighty Yangtze River. At that time, when experts were all being overthrown, I, though young, had the good chance to be chosen to go to Nanjing to participate in creating the designs on the bridge railings. The complicated and strict "revolutionary" system, involving collective design work by cadres, workers and artists, and morning and evening oral reports to a portrait of Chairman Mao, was exhausting. I didn't have a good night's sleep for over two months, until this arduous task was finally completed. Amid a clamor of revolutionary slogans, my landscapes were cast in iron and mounted on the bridge railing. With this task finished, I dragged my thoroughly exhausted body out, gazed at the surging Yangtze River, and gathered up my resources to paint this water color sketch as a remembrance of my experience.

Autumn Enveloping a House by the Water (1975) 40x37cm

Dongshan, a small town on the shore of Taihu Lake about an hour's drive from Suzhou, is the hometown of Wang Ao, an important scholar of the Ming dynasty. This is on the only path between the town and the 24 bends of the river. These few residential houses are built of rocks from the mountain and their foundations sit by the water. The reflections of the houses in the water are clear and luminous. In the autumn, climbing melon vines cover the walls and the leaves of the palm trees in the backyard are edged with the gold of autumn. This is typical Jiangnan scenery and almost all artists who come here paint this scenery. On that visit, I also drew these houses in the autumn, in a particularly precise and realistic style.

Smoke from Kitchen Fires in the Evening (1977) 52.5x47cm

When the Cultural Revolution ended, I finally had the opportunity to travel to other provinces to sketch and I was thrilled, like a bird released from a cage where it had been confined for many years. My son had just been born a few days ago, but in order not to miss this rare opportunity, I hardened my heart, bid farewell to my wife and son, and left the small world of Suzhou.
This painting is a sketch from that time, and is of houses in Shidao fishing village in Shandong Province. I climbed up to the peak before it was light and painted until nightfall. At the end of the day, smoke from kitchen fires rose up from the roofs of every household and I hurriedly added these poignant streaks of smoke, putting the finishing touch on this work.

Lotus Pond (1975) 48.5x33cm

White Lotus (1975) 52.5x52cm

There are many legends about Tiger Hill of Suzhou, such as that even the solid rocks nodded their heads while the Master was teaching." The scattered white lotus in the deep pool at the foot of the "nodding rock" is imbued with mystery because of this legend. During the Cultural Revolution, we lived for a time in the Cold Fragrance Pavilion on Tiger Hill on the pretext of creating some eulogistic works. There I escaped for a while from the clamorous shouting of slogans in the cities, and used the times of early morning and dusk to draw many sketches. These are the only few that I have kept on hand.

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