The Emperor Huizong was one of China's most mediocre and unfortunate Emperors. As an 11th son of the reigning Emperor, he never expected to become the successor. With his father's encouragement, he devoted his life to poetry, calligraphy, and painting, eventually becoming one of China's greatest artists.
Through an amazing string of bad luck, his ten older brothers all died leaving Huizong as the completely unprepared heir to the imperial throne. He relied heavily on his scheming and corrupt ministers to govern. The Jin Tartars took advantage of the corruption and misrule and invaded, capturing the capital city Kaifeng, and Huizong. He ended his days as a prisoner in Manchuria.
Upon his unexpected ascension to the imperial throne, Huizong painted this picture in 1112 of cranes flocking over the roof of the imperial palace.
Cranes are seen in China as omens of good luck. They appear in art and architecture as auspicious emblems of good fortune. The anxious new Emperor filled this masterful painting with as many cranes as his composition would allow. He knew he needed Heaven's help.
And so do we all. Michael is going through a string of unexpected bad luck. My career as an artist seems to be stuck in "park" these days. We are both feeling very discouraged. There are too many people out of work or under-employed and under-paid, and I know too many of them.
Thankfully, the world is always full of new beginnings. Beneath the headlines and newsfeeds of corruption and craziness, people are hard at work trying to keep this country from going the way of 17th century Spain, and to revive and renew its core principles. The Episcopal Church appears to be headed for some kind of a new beginning and a new relationship with the rest of the world.
And JCF returns to California.
May Heaven prosper the work of our hands, and bring us all to a much better end than that of the artist-Emperor. May the good fortune and promise of his paintings come true for us, even if they were not fulfilled for him.