Tracing the Water Classic led Samten and I to Canglang waters (the classical name for a section of water along the Han River in Hubei Province) in early January of 2020. The photography in this handscroll is of the scenery along the water. Calligraphy that I wrote in the early spring of 2020 is interspersed with the images.


The first section of calligraphy reads: 


淖轅泥踵 滯覽多景

From view to view the mud grasps at our wheels and feet, as if holding us in the moment *

 The second section of calligraphy reads:



We wash in the Canglang's waters

 The final section of calligraphy reads:


京城庚子疫期 秋麥製圖並記

Beijing, Gengzi year, during the viral outbreak; mapped/charted/recorded by Michael Cherney

The calligraphy text is an homage to the poem The Fisherman from the Songs of Chu (an anthology of Chinese poetry written during the Warring States period and Han Dynasty).  An excerpt from The Fisherman reads as follows:



When the Canglang's waters are clear I can wash my hat-strings in them

When the Canglang's waters are muddy, I can wash my feet in them

The text refers to the classical Chinese motif of the fisherman representing the seeking of harmony in nature and a simple life during troubled times.


Although the wet January weather meant muddy travel, Samten and I tried to follow the clouds northward on a crowded train from Nanyang (Henan) to Xian (Shaanxi). In retrospect this was a risky ride, as the train had just passed through Wuhan on its way northward, and the virus had just begun to emerge. By late January we were both beginning to shelter in place at our homes, Samten in Aba and I in Beijing. Our journey to Canglang waters felt to be a metaphor for what was to follow:  remaining still … and then moving again, in harmony with our surroundings.


*The seal in upper right corner of first calligraphy section was created with my right index fingertip (the fingertip used to press the camera shutter-button) dipped in a mixture of gum Arabic and earth/mud gathered from the banks of the Canglang waters.