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Orchid Pavilion Gathering

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  • Chinese/Japanese: 蘭亭集會 (Lán tíng jí huì / rantei shuukai)

The Orchid Pavilion Gathering was a famous poetry gathering which took place on 353/3/3 at the private garden of Wang Xizhi, and which has come to be seen as the model ideal for literati poetry gatherings (wénhuì). The party has been represented or referenced in countless paintings, poems, and pieces of literature in China, Japan, and Korea, over the centuries, and Wang Xizhi's own preface to a record of the poems composed that day similarly came to be an ideal model excellence in Chinese calligraphy, quite possibly the most famous and most influential work in the history of Chinese calligraphy.

The gathering was held in celebration of the Shangsi or "Double Third" Festival (later celebrated in Japan as Hinamatsuri, aka Girls' Day or Doll Festival), and included 42 poets, who got together to enjoy one another's company, enjoy the beautiful garden, and to relax, drink, and compose poetry. Famously, they played a sort of game in which they floated wine cups on a stream that ran through the garden, and one had to compose a poem before the cup passed one by. The gathering came to hold such a prominent place in the Chinese literati tradition that all later literati garden gatherings were felt to repeat, recall, or reference the Orchid Pavilion Gathering of 353.

The poems composed that day were recorded, and Wang Xizhi's calligraphy became so prized that it not only quickly became the model standard to either emulate, adapt, or reject, but it's said that the original copy came into the hands of the Tang Dynasty Emperor Taizong, who treasured the work so much he is said to have been buried with it. Fortunately, later copies survive today, from which the content and style is known.

References

  • Chi Xiao, Chinese Garden as Lyric Enclave, Center for Chinese Studies, Univ. of Michigan (2001), 89.
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