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Where the color of mountains both is and is not

© 2010
BASID #855

Beth Ames Swartz
Where the color of mountains both is and is not
acrylic and mixed media on canvas
48" x 60" (1.22m x 1.52m)

王維  (Wang Wei, 701–761 a.c.e., Chinese)




A View of the Han River1




With its three2 southern branches reaching the Chu border,


And its nine streams3 touching the gateway of Jing4,


This river runs beyond heaven and earth,


Where the color of mountains both is and is not.


The dwellings of men seem floating along


On ripples of the distant sky –


These beautiful days here in Xiangyang5


Make drunken my old mountain heart!



1.  The Han River runs from Shanxi Province to Hubei Province before it emerges with the Chang River (a.k.a. the Yangtze River). The Han River enters the Chang River at Wuhan, the capital of Hubei.


2.  Dongbo believes the three tributaries Wang Wei mentions must be the Xiang River in Hunan and the Han River in Hubei both of which empty into the Chang River near, but not at, Jingmen in Jingzhou, Hubei. Chang believes the “three Xiangs” refer to three counties in Hunan Province: Xiangshang, Xiangtan, and Xiangying.


3.  The nine tributaries that are branches of the Yangtze River.


4.  “The gateway of Jing” represents Jingmen Mountain is in present-day Hubei Province where today resides the city of Jingmen. The ancient city of Jingzhou has become part of Jingzhou City, and it is situated in the middle reaches of the Chang River (a.k.a. the Yangtze River), a strategic place of military importance since ancient times.


5.  Xiangyang today is located in Hubei Province. It was an important city during the period of the Three Kingdoms (184 -280 A.C.E.) and where Sun Jian fought Liu Biao in 191 A.D. Today, Xiangyang has been incorporated with nearby Fancheng to form the prefecture-level city of Xiangfan.