In order to suggest the mist-filled, moonlit atmosphere of an early spring evening, Ma Yuan used brown and black ink in the trees and rocks, contrast with the light grayish ink on the cliff and mountain. The white-robed gentleman was framed by the dark angular forms of the landscape. It perfectly counterbalances the moon in its setting of limitless space.
Positive within negative, light within dark, solid within void, the painting may be read as an emblem of man’s dual nature: tied to the physical world, man’s spirit is not contained by it, but like the plum, reaches upward to partake of the infinite.
This work is Ma Yuan’s masterpiece, full of serenity and clearly indicating his characteristics.