Portrait of Gaofeng Yuanmiao, 1238-1295

Artist: Chuan Shinko (1444-1457)
Historical period(s)
Muromachi period, 1392-1568
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 58.4 x 37.4 cm (23 x 14 3/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Japan, kakemono, Muromachi period (1333 - 1573), portrait

To 1911
Yamanaka & Company, Boston, to 1911 [1]

From 1911 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company in 1911 [2]

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


[1] Undated folder sheet note. See letter in S.I. 419 Envelope File. Also, see Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 895, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[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
Yamanaka and Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1917-1965


Paintings of this type are known as chinzo, a special term given to portraits of Zen (Chinese: Ch'an) priests. The sitter is the Chinese priest Kao-feng Yuan-miao (1239-1295), the twenty-eighth patriarch in the direct line of succession from the first Patriarch, Bodhidharma, the founder of the Ch'an school of Buddhism in China.

The highly individualistic features, which include bushy hair, moustache, goatee as well as the wide-opened, fiery eyes and the long finger nails, convey something of the priest's inner strength. The prototypical portrait painted in China in 1290, five years before Kao-feng Yuan-miao's death, was brought to Japan in 1346, and still is preserved at the Houn-ji, Ibaragi prefecture. In the early portrait, however, Kao-feng is depicted in a full-length seated posture, facing right. The half-bust format of the Freer portrait may indicate that it belonged to a groups of portraits of patriarchs known as ressozo.

The Freer portrait was painted by Chu'an Shinko of the Kencho-ji, who was active during the middle of the fifteenth century. Two seals above the left shoulder of Kao-feng are those of the artist's. The square relief seal reads "Chu'an," and the tripod relief seal reads "Shinko."

Published References
  • Jeffrey Broughton. The Chan Whip Anthology: A Companion to Zen Practice. Cover.
  • Zaigai hiho [(Japanese Paintings in Western Collections]. 3 vols., Tokyo. vol. 2: pt. 2, p. 124.
  • Suiboku bijutsu taikei. 17 vols., Tokyo, 1973-1977. pl. 132.
  • Nihon kaiga kan [Gallery of Japanese Painting]. 12 vols., Tokyo, 1969-1971. vol. 5: pl. 87.
  • Zaigai Nihon no Shiho [Japanese Art: Selections from Western Collections]. 10 vols., Tokyo, 1979 - 1980. vol. 3: p. 124, pl. 24.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 71, vol. 2: p. 174.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 109.
  • Yoshiaki Shimizu. An Individual Taste for Japanese Painting. vol. 118, no. 258 London, August 1983. pp. 136-149, fig. 5.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.