Lin Fengmian's Hometown    Ding Xiyuan

Meixian (the Plum County) in Guangdong is an attractive place. I often associate it with the ancient poem which reads,

"Tomorrow at where I look out for my home town,

May be I would see some plum blossoms blooming?"

Eventually, I had a chance to visit the place. It was almost winter, yet the scenery was that of autumn. The leaves were turning yellow and clear like those in Lin Fengmian's paintings. As representatives from the Shanghai Chinese Painting Institute and Shanghai Art Museum, we went to Meixian, Lin Fengmian's hometown, to organize his exhibition. It was the first time the Mei­xian natives saw Lin's works. Some of the natives did not realize that Lin was such a famous painter in China and around the world. When they saw Lin's landscape paintings, they recognized the local landscapes in them, and we seemed to share their excitement in their discussions.

In the next morning, we visited Lin's former residence. We drove eastward from Meizhou city for half an hour and reached Baigong town where Lin was born and brought up.

Led by his nephew Lin Shichao, we walked to the Gegongling village. Lin's ancestral house was at the side of a small pond. The characters "Dunyu Ju" were written on a tablet above the entrance. The three stone steps in front of the door were laid by Lin's grandfather. Some of the stones still had the patterns engraved by his grandfather. Immediately beyond the main entrance was a rectangular cobbled front yard. Three rooms on the right belonged to his grandfather.

There were white walls and small windows with wooden lattices. A bright red couplet was hung on the wooden door. There were some melons hanging down from the bamboo railings, some chickens were walking leisuredly and searching for food in the yard. It was indeed a very simple and humble scene. Lin's sister-in-law was living in the house. She was a kind woman, wearing some dark country-style clothings. She looked very healthy and it was hard to tell that she was already 73 years old.

She told us she had never met Lin Fengmian before. Lin had left his home for more than 70 years. He wrote home often. Back in the village, life was calm and busy. However, they had their troubles too. Lin's grandfather's masonry shop was damaged in a flood and was pulled down. Time had not brought much tremendous changes to this little village.

There were perhaps complicated reasons for Lin Fengmian to leave his hometown for so long. But as a pleasant surprise, I found traces of Lin's thoughts and feelings towards Meixian in his paintings. They were rich and abundant, and intoxicating like some poems and wines. His art was closely knitted with his childhood memories, recollections and dreams. The autumn landscapes, the mountains, the villages, the huts and ponds that Lin had painted were typical of the Meixian folk style. His favourite subjects of egrets, reeds and ponds were commonly found in his home­town. Seeing these objects, one would naturally think of Lin's works. It was an evidence that art was indeed the witness of life.

Han Mo magazine No. 24

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