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On Composition Study: Zhang Lu - Laozi Riding an Ox

translation: fr
date: 2021-07-27
update: 2023-03-14

A composition exegesis proposal based on Chinese language, allowed by a broadness of interpretation rooted in the simplicity of the notions involved.

Laozi Riding an Ox (η•«θ€ε­ι¨Žη‰›)

Laozi Riding an Ox (η•«θ€ε­ι¨Žη‰›) by Zhang Lu (1464–1538) εΌ΅θ·― through – Public domain

For the context, Laozi (6th to 4th BC) is a key figure of Chinese’s Taoism, considered as the author of a central book on the matter, the Tao Te Ching, “道德碓”.


As we’ve already shown, 子 is often used as a respectful epithet: Confucius (孔倫子), Laozi (老子), Mencius (孟子), Xunzi (荀子), JuΜ„n zǐ (君子), TiaΜ„n zǐ (倩子), etc.


That painting depicts Laozi, a prominent figure (老), yet, through his arched back, his mount, and his occupation, humble (small within, 子).

He’s shown looking at a bird (a small thing, 子) in the sky (老: Chinese language’s word for sky, 倩, as Western’s languages, embeds the same duality, ordinary sky/Heaven).


Note also that to the ox, of an average weight of nearly ten times that of a human, Laozi is the venerable (老) small thing (子) placed above to be looked at.

Panoramic view from Mount Tianzi Shan, 2012

Panoramic view from Mount Tianzi Shan, 2012 by Chensiyuan through – CC-BY-SA-4.0

In the series:


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