A Prophetic Painting

Spring of the Frog’s Sound Ten Miles (1951) / Qi Baishi. Ink on Paper. Created by artist at age 91 to honor Chinese writer Lao She. Chinese Modern Literature Museum, Beijing.

This painting is from the famous Chinese painter Qi Baishi, The Spring of the Frog’s Sound Ten Miles, presents the scene of the spring water flowing down with small tadpoles within the rush and swimming towards the vast river.

The strange rocks at the source of the mountain spring seem to be dark and causing turbulence, but they have also helped spawn countless new life by creating pools for the tadpoles to grow.

The frog has a symbolic meaning of fertility, transformation and renewal in Chinese culture.

Rock paintings of frogs have survived since ancient times. According to a mythological archaeological study, the archetype of China’s ancestor and goddess Nuwa was a frog, and the name “Nuwa” is also pronounced the same as frog.

The frog is the mascot of our Chinese agricultural society. The folk proverb says: “The sky moves, the frog sounds” which means that the frog’s tweet can call for abundant rain that makes the crops flourish. The frog, as an auspicious symbol, has circulated from ancient times to this day.

The number six, represented by the six tadpoles in this painting, has special significance for Chinese people and culture. There are six lines in each trigram of the I Ching, representing the six stages of the development of all things. At the same time, two groups of two are divided into three parts, representing the relationships between heaven, earth and humans, with emphasis on the human and the universe. The principle of life revolves around harmony with nature. Human beings violate the laws of nature and are punished. This is also a warning to humanity in this pandemic.

There are more meanings that cannot be fully expressed in this short text inspired by Qi Baishi’s painting. I believe everyone who sees it will feel more…and in their own way…

Ainong Hu
Beijing, China

(This painting is taken from the wonderful series sponsored by the Archive for Research in Archetypal Symbolism. Visit this series here.)


Yes, I certainly see in in my own way and it’s a lot different from how Ainong Hu sees it. The Chinese perspective on the painting above is a look backward at Chinese history and culture and symbols. Yet, I view the painting as a prophetic look forward in time. Created in 1951, it looks forward in time almost 70 years to the arrival of a great pandemic originating at the “headwaters” in the painting, the hazy green at the top of the painting. This headwaters, the source for the tadpoles swimming though the water in the painting. Going from top to bottom in the painting. They swim – or – are simpy pushed down the river and out into an opening into something larger than a river.

The river in the painting grows quickly to consume almost half the vertical height of the painting. This quick growth of the river into something far larger, a major body of water. The flow of the “tadpole” symbols into this larger space. Symbolically, this space has the equilvancy of that river of “tapoles” flowing into a large body. Flowing into an ocean ultimately. And, not just one ocean but many oceans until this river from the source of the “tadpoles” in the haze green at the top of the painting. There is that biological link of the tadpoles to frogs and the link of frogs to Chinese culture.

But again, the perspective of the Chinese reviewer above is based around China’s past rather than China’s future. And, China’s past has been a constant perspective in the modern debate about China. And, there is little question that this past had a profound influence on global history. This is the perspective of China so many outside observers have. That China, in a real sense, wants everyone to have. This view is an expensive perspective to buy for the American public. There are the great exhibits of Chinese art that continually circulate to key American museums. And, of course there is the money poured into our educational system by the Chinese.

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To think that the Chinese have not implemented a huge public relations campaign to make American consumers feel a certain way about China is incredibly naive. China has bought the perception it has for most Amerians today. It is a perception the current government feels most beneficial to their efforts. In many ways, it seem to me, it desires to place the view of China in a type of retrograde position in the past. In this past, Chinese culture is stressed. The content of the Chinese review of the painting by Ainong Hu always looks to the past. The present or future of China is never considered in this painting.

In effect, the review of the painting says that it is the past that contains the greatness of China, in this old Chinese culture. It is important that those in control of China focus attention away from what China is doing in the present and future and place it in the past. This is a goal of the PR campaigns of China to America and the world right now. China judges that its past has an emotional appeal many and it offers a way to distract perspective of China away from present and future goals. Which are not as “pretty” in the mind of most. And, in the real China we are facing today, not the China of the past that the above painting represents.

For me, the painting above – created in 1951 by Qi Baishi – looks forward in time rather backwards in time. From this time in 1951 the painting was created, it prophetically looks forward 70 years to 2020. In fact, the artist Qi Baishi might be under a prophetic (future) influence when creating Spring of Frog’s Sound Ten Miles. The Beijing reviewer (above) has no interest in other time frames than the past.

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Yet, the overall image of the painting is the most brilliant symbol I’ve yet seen for the spread of Covid-19 from China to the rest of the world. Could anyone create a better symbol for the spread of the virus?

This is why I label the painting above a prophetic painting. In this sense, it is much more about a future pandemic than about the past symbolism of frogs in Chinese culture – however importnat they might be. There is a powerful future foreshadowing in the painting. A Chinese artist – Qi Baishi – at 91 years old, created this incredible work of art. And, using the great Chinese art technique of ink on paper. Is there any art more dramatic than the contrasting black and white colors of ink on paper? This Chinese art form genre was very similar to the black and white film noir genre of Ameria’s art form. Chinese ink on paper. Much related to the film noir in America.

Not a time of all the various “rainbows” of current culture. A black and white time right now like the painting above. No colors except the mysterious green haze at the top of the painting. Almost like the green haze of Oz from a distance.

A prophetic painting by Qi Baishi, envisioning a particular future event for China rather than painting the past life in Chinese culture.

In the end, I tend to go with what the Chinese reviewer Ainony Hu says above. At the end of his review, he notes “There are more meanings that cannot be fully expressed in this short text inspired by Qi Baishi’s painting. I believe everyone who sees it will feel more…and in their own way…”

And so it goes. As a Vonnegut character might say.

Not defined here. Rather, suggested here. Not trying to stop thinking or distract from thinking. Rather, encourage that increasingly dangerous act of thinking about things. Yet, what is the great opposition symbol to this thinking about things. Rather than the masculine sybols of thinking about things to the femininbe symbols of feeling about things. The grand weapon of the grand siren songs of popular culture

John Fraim
New Albany, Ohio


(Notes: The above painting and review by Ainong Hu was posted to the ARAS site. My thanks to this amazing group that helps continue Jung’s message into modern culture. By posting this painting, I believe that ARAS has posted a great symbol of our time. The paintng Spring of the Frog’s Sound Ten Miles is a symbol of what is happening in the world today. Much originating in China, as the little tadpoles caught up in the gran river from the Chinese source, out to the seas of the world.)






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