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A Sense of Place



Jade Mountain
China, <i>Jade Mountain Illustrating the Gathering of Poets at the Lan T'ing Pavilion</i>, 1784, light green jade
zoom China, Jade Mountain Illustrating the Gathering of Poets at the Lan T'ing Pavilion, 1784, light green jade

 

It all started with a picnic. In the year 353 A.D., a group of friends go out for a stroll in the Chinese countryside. It is a beautiful spring day. The friends take a path around the base of a steep mountain. They float their drinks in a stream to keep them cold, and spend the afternoon enjoying nature. They have such a good time that one of them writes a poem about the day. The poem becomes famous.

Fourteen hundred years pass. Ch'ien Lung is the emperor of China. Like the poet and his friends so many centuries earlier, Ch'ien Lung loves nature. He is proud to own a copy of the poem about that spring day. He also has a huge block of jade, a hard and beautiful green stone brought to China from the distant mountains of Turkestan.

Ch'ien Lung's workmen spend years carving the scene from the poem into the block of jade. They copy the words of the poem onto the side of the mountain. The emperor is so pleased, he adds a poem of his own on the other side.

Time passes again. Now it's your turn to let your eyes wander along the path beside the stream, through the woods, and over the rocks. Can you find the cups in the stream? Look long enough and, like the emperor, you might imagine that you are among the poet's friends enjoying nature so long ago.