About Zhen Shiyin

Zhen Shiyin (甄士隐) is a fictional character in the Chinese classic novel Dream of the Red Chamber. He is a retired scholar who lives in a small village outside of the city of Nanjing. He is a kind and compassionate man who is deeply interested in Buddhism. He is also a talented poet and calligrapher.

One day, Zhen Shiyin meets a young monk named Xue Baochai. The two men become friends and discuss their shared interest in Buddhism. Xue Baochai tells Zhen Shiyin about the legend of the Stone, a magical object that was created from the tears of a goddess. The Stone is said to contain the essence of all human suffering.

Zhen Shiyin is fascinated by the story of the Stone and decides to build a garden in its honor. He names the garden the Garden of Perfect Brightness. The garden is a beautiful place where Zhen Shiyin can meditate and contemplate the meaning of life.

One day, Zhen Shiyin’s daughter, Xiangling, is kidnapped and killed. Zhen Shiyin is devastated by her death and loses all interest in the world. He eventually dies of grief.

Zhen Shiyin is a tragic figure, but he is also a wise and compassionate man. He represents the best of what it means to be human. He is a reminder that even in the midst of suffering, there is still hope.

About this Portrait

Chinese watercolor, on rice paper. Dream of the Red Chamber (1975-85)
Painted by Xiang Li

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