Yintolo-+##+—+##+-Shide, 14th century, Ink on silk; 97.8 x 35.6 cm (38 1/2 x 14 inches), Gift of Mrs. Gustav Radeke 20.319
In Buddhism, the Chan (or, in Japanese, Zen) teaching stresses meditation, experience, and intuitive understanding as the means to enlightenment. This concise depiction of the monk Shide epitomizes Chan painting. Every element is reduced to its essentials: a figure with facial features and body contours described with a few brushstrokes, a landscape defined by a tree branch and some vines. Shide and his companion, the well-known Tang poet Hanshan (probably eighth or ninth century), were monks who embodied true wisdom and were noted for their eccentricity. Here Shide raises a brush to write on a banana leaf. This painting would most likely have been paired with a representation of Hanshan unrolling a scroll. At upper right, a poem inscribed by a fourteenth-century monk dates the painting.