An Ho: Shi Xiangyun

ShiXiangyunShi Xiangyun
An Ho
1993
Watercolor on silk mounted on rice paper using traditional Chinese technique
54″ x 88″

The Matriarch’s paternal great niece, Shi Xiangyun visits the Jia house from time to time to take part in the various activities Baoyu and others have organized to amuse themselves. Orphaned as a child, Xiangyun grew up under the watchful eyes of her uncle and aunt. Lacking wealth and social connections, she lives in taxing reduced circumstances and relies heavily on needlework to earn her keep. She therefore looks forward to her visits to the Jias as diversions from her usually dreary, monotonous existence. Attractive, outgoing, and outspoken, she contrasts sharply with Daiyu in personality and conduct and often provokes jealous outbursts from Daiyu. The matching gold unicorns Xiangyun and Baoyu have appear to suggest a possible relationship between them later in their lives. A talented poet, she authors a linked verse with Daiyu which the “unshaved nun” Maioyu completes. As for her ending, the Main Register and the commentaries hint at several possibilities: 1. She marries but soon lives alone after separating from her husband; 2. She marries Baoyu after the fall of the Jia house; and 3. She dies shortly after she marries. In the sequel, Xiangyun is happily married but soon loses her husband.

ShiXiangyun-CutawayARTIST’S COMMENTARY

Innocent with openness. Artistic and outspoken. She is dressed differently from the other ladies. The motifs are from the Tang Dynasty: a “fabulous beast” with colorful sky surrounded by an “endless knot.” Taken together, this also helps bring out her mischievous nature.