Twenty leaves of the ficus religiosa

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Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1644-1911
Ink on leaves
H x W (a: image): 15 x 10.9 cm (5 7/8 x 4 5/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting


bodhi tree, Buddhism, China, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)

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 Reserved Album List, R. 6, pg. 3, 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
Li Wenqing (C.L. Freer source) ca. 1869-1931


Of the twenty mounted heart-shaped, pointed leaves from the bodhi tree (Ficus religiosa) in this album, only four have paintings; the other sixteen are undecorated and inlaid in blue paper. The four that are illustrated depict a luohan riding an ox, Bodhidharma crossing the Yangzi River on a reed, a luohan and a deer, and a luohan taming a tiger.

Special religious significance is given to this form of leaf painting because the Historical Buddha Shakyamuni (circa 563-483 B.C.E.), also known as Siddhartha Gautama, obtained enlightenment under the bodhi tree at Bodhgaya in India. Many temples throughout China planted Ficus religiosa, a tree known for its great size and longevity, and a tradition of leaf art emerged for copying sutras or painting Buddhist images.

Published References
  • Donald S. Lopez Jr, Rebecca Bloom. Hyecho's Journey: The World of Buddhism. Chicago, December 2017. Back Cover, p. 129, fig. 13.
  • Eco-Art History in East and Southeast Asia. Cambridge Scholars United Kingdom, 2019. p. 258, fig. 7-5.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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