The Howling Owl
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The Howling Owl

poetry & essay

The Missing Stroke — What Do You See?

On censorship and such

Detail, Zhang Daqian and the boulder in his Taipei residence/ Original image by Hu Chongxian

in censorship i clam shut.
the wind sears quietude —
finds body in quivering leaves — burrows
down torn trunks — deep roots throbbing.
timeless. dead and alive again.
pregnant silence tolerates no control.


in chaotic cacophonies
opposing parties thunder
one over another —
i hear nothing. see nothing.
shouters mutually imprisoned.
opportunity squandered.

there lives. contrast of cultures

Art giant Zhang Daqian 1899–1983 shipped a boulder from the US to his secluded New Taipei residence 摩耶精舍 — a boulder he found on a beach near Los Angeles and inscribed two characters 梅丘, meaning Plum Blossom Hill. Under this boulder in his backyard, his remains live. On closer look, one vertical stroke is missing in the character 丘— the crucial upright inner support.

Nobody could directly utter, write, or allude to the emperor’s name in ancient China— not even the royal mother. Beheading? Too lenient for such disrespect and traitorous acts.

In single incidents tens of thousands of scholars, their families, and associates periled. Beating to death 杖斃 was not uncommon. Heavens wept blood as wronged souls wailed.

Literary inquisition & prison 文字獄 hail back to 548 BC and thrived through the absolute monarchy of Qing Dynasty 1636–1911 (heavens did have mercy — in Tang Dynasty 618-907 the cultural scene leaned liberal, a comparative respite evident in the broad swath of poetry).

Such cultural influence span East and Southeast Asia. Reading what’s missing becomes important.

In contemporary times, close to 10,000 artists were on former president Park Guen-Hye’s secret cultural blacklist between 2013–2017 in South Korea — you heard me right — South, not North.

Outspoken artists, critical of their governments in dictatorial eras of Southeast Asian countries, allegedly find themselves in sudden, inexplicable situations with no electricity or running water, or rents raised 100-fold overnight, forcing them out of their studios.

The outwardly controlled developed a silent yet keen sense of metaphors visual and behavioral over millenniums.

But what is the missing stroke in Zhang Daqian’s boulder of Plum Blossom Hill?

Legend says the character in question 丘 hill allegorizes Confucius’s name 孔丘, for many see Confucius as the supreme. The supreme. He who must not be named.

While across the globe cross shouts are so loud no one hears anything.

What is the missing stroke?

Zhang Daqian, the ultimate humorist. Born and raised in mainland China towards the end of Qing Dynasty. He lived in Carmel, California in the 1960s-70s. The art world notes his meeting with Pablo Picasso in Cannes in 1956 as a summit of East-West art giants.

© 2023 Pseu Pending (Seu)

Thanks to Zay Pareltheon, Viraji Ogodapola, and Marilyn J Wolf for a nurturing nest at The Howling Owl!



The Howling Owl is a juried publication featuring poetry, fiction, essays, and reviews. The publication is committed to quality creative work from a diverse group of writers.

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Pseu Pending (Seu)

Leisure is a path to the thinking process. Museum Educator/ Contemporary Art Researcher/ Lover of culinary arts. Top writer in Poetry, Art, Creativity, Food