Watercolor on silk mounted on rice paper using traditional Chinese technique
54″ x 88″
Widowed shortly after marriage to Baoyu’s older brother, Li Wan exemplifies traditional Chinese womanhood. She came from a family who used to provide its young a well-rounded education. But her father believed that his daughter should only be taught The Four Books for Girls and Lives of Noble Women so that she could model herself after the virtuous exemplars of the past. She was also raised on the doctrine: “Lack of talent, for women, is virtue” and was given a name that calls attention to the primary importance of needlework for a woman. So as a young widow she devotes her life to spinning and weaving besides taking care of her son. She does, however, preside over the first poetry club organized by Tanchun and serves as a member of a triumvirate to oversee the daily activities of the Rong Mansion. In the sequel, she dies shortly after her son succeeds in the civil service examinations.
Restrained self-discipline. The plum motif shows her high integrity and propriety. The water motifs on her skirt represent a high level of morality.