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.