Gathering at the Orchid Pavilion

Artist: Probably by You Qiu (active ca. 1540-1590) Formerly attributed to Li Gonglin (傳)李公麟 (ca. 1049-1106)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, late 16th century
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 147 x 39.2 cm (57 7/8 x 15 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

baimiao style, China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644)

To 1911
An unnamed private owner, to 1911 [1]

From 1911 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from an unnamed private owner, through Riu Cheng Chai, Beijing, in 1911 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 802, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. This object exhibits seals, colophons, or inscriptions that could provide additional information regarding the object’s history; see Curatorial Remarks in the object record for further details.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


On the third day in the third lunar month of 353 C.E., which corresponded to April 22, the famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi (ca. 303-361 C.E.), along with forty friends and family members, traveled some ten kilometers from the town of Kuaiji (modern Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province) to the picturesque Orchid Pavilion, a private retreat that Wang had built in a nearby mountain valley. Here they celebrated an ancient springtime purification ceremony that had transformed over the centuries into a secular holiday, when people would gather near a body of water to enjoy the scenery, eat and drink together, and compose poetry. At the Orchid Pavilion, a channel had been dug and the local river diverted to form a small meandering stream, along which the participants sat in order of seniority. Cups were floated down the water course, and each member of the group had to compose a poem when a cup arrived at his location, or pay the penalty of drinking three dippers of wine. At the end of the day, thirty-seven poems were collected, and Wang Xizhi, glimpsed in the thatch-roofed pavilion at right, composed a famous preface to record the circumstances of the occasion. A second, more substantial pavilion with a tiled roof and swooping eaves appears in the lower part of the painting.

The current work is probably by the late-sixteenth-century artist You Qiu, who was the son-in-law and most gifted follower of the artist Qiu Ying (ca. 1494-1552), two of whose seals appear on the painting at lower right. You Qiu is best known for his figure paintings of scholars in garden settings rendered in the baimiao (plain-outline) style of painting seen here, which he executed with great skill and elegance in the tradition of the Northern Song dynasty artist Li Gonglin (ca. 1049-1106), whose forged signature was added on the right side of the painting by a later owner.

Published References
  • Ellen Mae Johnston Laing. Scholars and Sages: A Study in Chinese Figure Paintings. Ann Arbor, 1967-1986. .
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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