Chen Jiru: the hermit scholar of Ming Dynasty
Chen Jiru (1558-1639), a literati and scholar during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), is known as "Prime Minister of the Hills," as he abandoned fame and lived in seclusion in the deep forest of Sheshan Hill of Songjiang District.
Gifted from a young age, Chen passed the provincial exams and became a scholar at the age of 21. At that time, the struggle among the bureaucratic groups was most intense, and the opinions of the court were divided, with conflicts on the verge of eruption.
To avoid political struggles, Chen burned his official robes in public when he was 29, gave up the imperial examinations, and retreated to the forest of Sheshan.
He was widely known for his poetry and painting skills, and was a representative of the Yunjian (today's Songjiang) School of late Ming Dynasty.
He was also the founder of the Songjiang Painting School, and was fond of painting plum blossoms and bamboo, often comparing himself to them. The plum blossoms and bamboo he painted were exquisite, with his brushstrokes showcasing the moistness and elegance of pine trees.
After retreating to the mountains, Chen had a steady stream of visitors seeking his advice, and his charisma captivated the powerful and the people alike. He also spoke for the poor, and frequently wrote letters to request assistance for disaster victims. In 1632, he drew up a plan to solve the grain shortage in Songjiang, thus earning the name of "Prime Minister of the Hills."
The Sheshan Hill, where Chen lived in seclusion, offered him a pleasant and quiet place. There were bamboo groves, with grand hiking trails flanked by trees and alive with the sounds of birds and the scent of flowers. The curving and undulating stone path on the ridge of the hill is called "riding on the dragon's back."
On a cliff in Sheshan stands a pavilion built for Chen.
On a stone outcropping at the southern foot of the hill, surrounded by beautiful water, it's a place where Chen enjoyed angling.