Shi Ze (born 1960)
Zhu Yuze (Benjamin, style name: Shi Ze, sobriquet: Lotus Prince) is part of a generation of Chinese painters educated after the turbulent times of the Cultural Revolution of the Sixties and Seventies. His style name, Shi Ze, can be translated literally as "stone pool" - a reference to the habitat of the lotus. The style name carries secondary and tertiary meanings as well, referring to the strength and steadfastness of stone and the character quality of benevolence toward others, an oft-cited virtue in Buddhism.
Shi Ze started his study of ink painting as a young boy in Beijing, subsequently followed the style of Li Keran and later studied with Professor Jia Youfu, whose works M. Sutherland also represents. Although illustrating completely different subject matter, the highly controlled diffusion of color washes in Shi Ze's lotus paintings pays homage to elements of Jia Youfu's landscapes. After obtaining his Masters Degree from the Central Art Academy, Shi Ze was
involved in many different creative aspects of the arts but always continued to paint.
Over a decade ago, Shi Ze became a devout follower of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism. The Pure Land is described in the Longer SukhavatTvyuha Sltra as "a land of beauty that surpasses all other realms." More importantly for the Pure Land practitioner, once one has been "born" into this land (birth occurs painlessly through lotus flowers), one will never again be reborn. Therefore, the lotus is an integral symbol in Buddhist iconography. For the first few years after he began to concentrate on lotus painting, Shi Ze would visit lotus ponds during each of the four seasonsin Beijing and elsewhere in China to study the flower in different stages of the lifecycle. After years of careful observation, Shi Ze now paints lotus flowers from his heart - as a type of meditation and act of piety.
Shi Ze's connection to Buddhism adds a spiritual glow to his paintings. "Seeing the purity of lotus, feeling the peace of heart" is a famous saying from a Buddhist sutra. In Shi Ze's paintings, lotuses no longer touch the muddy waters, but exist separate and apart from the earthly realm. In 2007, Shi Ze presented his lotus album to Buddhist Master Jing Kong from Taiwan. Master Jing Kong was so moved by the beauty and spirituality presented in the lotuses that he renamed Shi Ze the "Lotus Prince." All of Shi Ze's works have been blessed by Pure Land Buddhist Masters; and as such, the paintings may transfer these blessings upon those who collect the work.