"Relaxing with Deer"
In "Relaxing with Deer," a man enjoys tea under the shade of a tree. He is quietly watching the sunset and contemplating the numerous lessons and tests he has passed. Chi-Jen Liu gives us a unique portrayal of a man by surrounding him with symbols that reveal the blessings he has earned from a long life of hard work.
One of the blessings he has earned is longevity, which is depicted by the man's foot resting upon an old tortoise. Tortoises are known for their ability to retain life force and reach very old age. They are thus used in Chinese herbal medicine for their healing properties. Another blessing is wealth, which comes in the form of two creatures: the golden deer and the fortune toad. The Chinese word for deer is "lu," and is a homonym for a "long and prosperous life." The fortune toad comes from Chinese mythology and its appearance is a positive omen preceding wealth and good news.
Yin-yang is the fundamental concept behind Taoism. It is the dual quality of nature – dark and light, cool and warm – that permeates our world and sustains the cycles of creation. In "Relaxing with Deer," the man sits between a warm red sky and a cool blue shoreline. His body reflects the landscape of ever-shifting, yet ever-balanced, yin-yang energies. He retreats to the forest where there is abundance, peace, and a meditative space.
Trees make the forest; they symbolize life. Their hidden roots represent our culture, our ancestors, and the past experiences that define who we are today. Their outstretched branches represent our accomplishments, our children, and our hopes for the future. Flowering or fruit-bearing branches symbolize the beautiful qualities we have cultivated or the rewards of our efforts.
Many of the “Forest Series” paintings feature pines, palms, and bamboo. Pine trees are known to endure high altitudes, cold and dry climates, and in some cases, live to be over 1,000 years old! Hence, they symbolize rising above obstacles and longevity. Palm trees thrive in tropical and warm climates. They grow fast and tall – bending, but rarely breaking – so they convey growth and resilience. They also bear fruits like coconuts and dates, and provide welcome shade; so they denote fertility and peace as well. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. It is known for its versatile uses in the culinary arts, building materials, textiles, instruments and tools. Bamboo is highly regarded in feng shui. It is often placed in homes and offices to attract energy for good fortune.
Chi-Jen Liu includes the moon and the sun in almost all of his artworks. These cosmic icons represent nature’s balancing act of night and day. The moon carries feminine, or yin, energy; the sun embodies masculine, or yang, energy. Yin-yang is the fundamental concept behind Taoism. It is the dual quality of Mother Nature – dark and light, cool and warm, female and male – that permeates the world and sustains the cycles of creation.