The ‘Zen Mona Lisa’: 13th-century Chinese masterpiece makes rare US appearance via SF exhibit

The ‘Zen Mona Lisa’: 13th-century Chinese masterpiece makes rare US appearance via SF exhibit
via Asian Art Museum

The U.S. exhibit marks the first time in its eight-century history that Six Persimmons has left its Kyoto home

November 22, 2023
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A revered Chinese Buddhist painting, known as the “Zen Mona Lisa,” has made its debut in the U.S. via the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. 
The Heart of Zen: Crafted by the monk Muqi Fachang in 13th-century China, the ink and brush masterpiece officially titled “Six Persimmons” is currently gracing the Asian Art Museum as part of the exclusive exhibition “The Heart of Zen.”  
The artwork can be viewed in the exhibit from Nov. 17 until Dec. 10. The exhbit will also feature its sister painting, Chestnuts, which will be on display from Dec. 8-31. As a protective measure against sunlight exposure, the two paintings will overlap for just three days, according to the SF Standard
Six Persimmons legacy: Originating from the Song dynasty, Muqi’s artwork features six persimmons on an undefined background, painted in thin and thick brushstrokes using blue-black ink on paper. The varying thickness of the brushstrokes that define the contours of the persimmons creates an illusion of separation between the lighter persimmons and the darker ones. It has been hailed as a pinnacle of spontaneous Chinese painting, reflecting Chan Buddhist ideals.
Finding a home in Japan: While falling out of favor in China, Muqi’s work found resonance in Japan, influencing an entire school of followers with its asymmetry and ambiguity. It later became part of the collection in the Juko’in subtemple of Daitokuji Ryokoin Temple in Kyoto, Japan. 
The iconic painting earned the moniker “Zen Mona Lisa” in the U.S. during the Zen Buddhism aesthetic surge in the country back in the 1960s. The U.S. exhibit marks the first time in its eight-century history that Six Persimmons has left its Kyoto home.
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      Ryan General

      Ryan General
      is a Senior Reporter for NextShark

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