Monday, August 22, 2016

The Artist and the Rooster

“Do you know the story of how a famous painter made the emperor of China wait for more than a year for a picture of a rooster?”

They went into the next room and, while Bärger began his preparations, he told the story of the painter who had made the emperor of China wait.

The emperor of China, they say, had heard of the master’s great skill. At that time, it was a special honor to receive a commission for a picture from the emperor. The emperor expected that his commission, which wasn’t very different from an imperial order, would be carried out immediately. That didn’t happen. After several weeks, the emperor sent one of his officials to demand the delivery of the picture, but the painter informed him that he needed more time.

When the painting hadn’t been completed after several months, the emperor sent one of his ministers to emphasize the urgency of his imperial wishes. Once again, the painter said that he needed more time.

After over a year, the emperor was so angry with the painter that he ordered him to be brought before him to be executed.

This time, the painter invited the emperor’s messenger into his studio, placed a piece of rice paper on a table, prepared his ink, and right before the messenger’s eyes, painted a picture of a rooster in a few minutes that was so life-like, the messenger almost expected to hear it crow.

The emperor’s messenger rolled up the painting that the painter handed him and, as a few minutes no longer mattered, they drank a cup of tea together.

Then the messenger asked why the painter had made the emperor wait over a year for a painting that he could do in a couple of minutes.

The painter answered that he had never had so little time for a painting.

From morning to night, he had done nothing but watch roosters; how they moved, when they crowed, when they ate and drank, when they fought, and when they slept. He did this, he said, until he understood the essence of a rooster as thoroughly as if he had been one himself. Only then, and not one minute sooner, was he able to paint a picture of a rooster worthy of an emperor.

~Famous Chinese story (taken from a book by Günther Bach)

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