A Brief Biography of Zhu Da (朱耷/Chu Ta)
Zhu Da (1626-1705), often known as Ba Da Shan Ren (八大山人/Pa Ta Shan Jen), had a most remarkable, yet somewhat melancholy life. As a descendent Ming royalty, his life was threatened from an early age as the Manchu invasions and the installation of their Qing Dynasty made retaining any kinship to the defunct Ming Dynasty a dangerous proposition. Indeed, in the early years of Qing rule, those who might even potentially contest the right of Manchu rule were actively sought out or assassination. It was for this reason, to escape persecution, that Zhu Da cast off his filial lineage to join a monastic Buddhist order. Moreover, anecdotes regarding his behavior show that he was incredibly eccentric in his conduct and bearing. It is said that for very long periods he would say nothing, only laughing, smiling and nodding when he needed to communicate. Whether this was evidence of his extreme mental duress or simply a mask of madness to avert the eyes of the authorities is difficult to determine: neither is likely to be the entire truth.