The Reclusive Painter Wang    By You-Sheng Li 

In the 14th century countryside of South China, news spread among the mountain villages: Danger Plain, the high ranking official who was born here, had come back. It was said when he left the capital that the emperor accompanied him to the city gates and walked with him hand in hand for a dozen paces. All the local officials and nobility came to greet him. Gifts and presents piled up like hills one beside another. The only gift Danger Plain loved was a book of twenty four pages of hand-painted flowers. He admired the paintings, the subtitled poetry, and the calligraphy so much that he could hardly put it down. The next day, the county magistrate was invited for a dinner. He asked whether this painter Wang was ancient or contemporary. The answer surprised Danger Plain. Wang was said to be an ordinary peasant who was a bit eccentric. He often wore a tall paper hat and a large robe to mimic an ancient poet. Children who were attracted by his peculiarity followed him,laughing and giggling. Danger Plain said: “Wang is an extraordinarily gifted man with a broad mind and insights. His future is brighter than yours and mine. Can I have the privilege of meeting him?”

A serviceman with an invitation from the magistrate was bribed to return back alone, and the magistrate came himself the next day and only found an empty house. A few years later, the emperor sent commissioners for him but only learned that he had lived as a recluse for years in the mountains and nobody knew his whereabouts.     (Adapted from The Scholars)

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