Discussing the Dao in the Shade of Pines

Artist: Follower of Yan Hui 顏輝 (late 13th-early 14th century) Formerly attributed to Liu Songnian (傳)劉松年 (ca. 1150-after 1225)
Historical period(s)
Yuan or Ming dynasty, 14th century
Ink on silk
H x W (image): 142.5 x 77.5 cm (56 1/8 x 30 1/2 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)

China, Daoism, Daoist Immortals, landscape, Li Tiegnai, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), mountain, pine tree, river, teaching, waterfall, Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)

To 1911
Li Wenqing (circa 1869-1931), Shanghai to 1911 [1]

From 1911 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Li Wenqing, in China, 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. 865, 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
Li Wenqing (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1869-1931


In a deep pine ravine, by a rapid mountain stream, two men sit in conversation. The one facing us, a crutch beside him, is the Daoist immortal Li Tieguai. Kneeling in front of him is the pilgrim who has come into these deep mountains to "ask about the Dao," or Way of Life.

The Daoist narrative emphasizes strangeness, darkness, mystery, and the perilous. It tells us that life does not have easy answers--that the paths of life are seldom straight, that along the way there are many diversions, difficulties, and temptations. In contrast, the Confucian narrative of wise rulership emphasizes brightness, nobility, elegance, and expansiveness.

In the lower left corner there is a spurious signature and seal of the Southern Song (1127-1279) court painter, Liu Songnian (active 12th century), but this powerful expression of man's eternal quest for understanding should be associated with Yan Hui (active ca. 1300), a professional painter of Buddhist and Daoist subjects in the aftermath of the Mongol conquest of China in 1279.

To learn more about this and similar objects, visit http://www.asia.si.edu/SongYuan/default.asp Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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