Nymph of the Luo River

View right to left

Artist: Traditionally attributed to Gu Kaizhi (傳)顧愷之 (ca. 344-ca. 406)
Colophon: Colophon by Dong Qichang 董其昌 (1555-1636)
Historical period(s)
Southern Song dynasty, mid-12th to mid-13th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 24.2 x 310.9 cm (9 1/2 x 122 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


China, river, Southern Song dynasty (1127 - 1279)

Li Lung-mien [1]

Duanfang (1861-1911) [2]

To 1914
Dr. John Calvin Ferguson (1866-1945), Beijing, to 1914 [3]

From 1914 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Dr. John C. Ferguson in 1914 [4]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [5]


[1] See Curatorial Remark 3, Ma Soo, 1917, in the object record. 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 Curatorial Remark 9, James F. Cahill, 1958, in the object record. According to Ingrid Larsen, "'Don’t Send Ming or Later Pictures': Charles Lang Freer and the First Major Collection of Chinese Painting in an American Museum," Ars Orientalis vol. 40 (2011), pgs. 19-20, "Ferguson became a Chinese art scholar and dealer who helped Freer acquire perhaps the most famous painting in Duanfang's collection, Nymph of the Luo River..."

[3] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 832, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[4] See note 1.

[5] 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
Duanfang 1861-1911
John Calvin Ferguson (C.L. Freer source) 1866-1945


This handscroll illustrates a long rhapsody, or prose-poem (fu), written in 222 C.E. by the poet and prince Cao Zhi (192-232 C.E.), in which he describes his romantic encounter with the nymph, or goddess, of the Luo River in central China.  Slightly less than half the work's original length, this scroll is one of the three important Song copies--the other two are in China in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and the Liaoning Provincial Museum--of an original composition traditionally attributed to the fourth-century pioneering figure Gu Kaizhi.

In this narrative scroll, figures are disproportionately large in relation to the landscape in which stylized elements are little more than stages set for various plots, and represent the beginning in the development of Chinese landscape painting.  In this section, the goddess mounts her dragon-drawn chariot and departs over the waves, attended by a retinue of fantastic creatures.


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

Published References
  • Sadajiro Yamanaka. To-so seikwa [Selected Relics of T'ang and Sung Dynasties from Collections in Europe and America]. Osaka, 1928-1929. vol. 2, pl. 4.
  • Helen Nebeker Tomlinson. West Meets East: Charles L. Freer Trailblazing Asian Art Collector. Herndon, Virginia. Insert p. 15.
  • Laura C.W. Blanchard. Song-Dynasty Figures of Longing and Desire: Gender and Interiority in Chinese Painting and Poetry. Women and Gender in China Studies, vol. 10 Leiden, The Netherlands. pgs 108- 112, figs 8.1 - 8.5.
  • Thomas Lawton. "画中人 上海书画出版社." Chinese Figure Painting. Shanghai, China. .
  • Encyclopedia Britannica: The new 14th edition. New York. pl. 2.
  • Benjamin Rowland, Laurence Sickman, H. G. Henderson, Robert Treat Paine, Richard Ettinghausen, Eric Schroeder. The University Prints. Oriental Art Series O 4 vols. Newton, Massachusetts, 1938-1941. Section 2: Early Chinese Art.
  • Wai-yee Li. Dream Visions of Transcendence in Chinese Literature and Painting. vol. 3, no. 4 New York, Fall 1990. .
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: pp. 194-195.
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. no. 467.
  • Dietrich Seckel. Emakimono: The Art of the Japanese Painted Hand-scroll. New York. fig. 21.
  • Nicole Vandier-Nicolas. Chinese Painting: Expression of a Civilization. New York. fig. 7.
  • Max Loehr. The Great Painters of China. Icon Editions, 1st U.S. edition. Oxford. fig. 10.
  • Hans H. Frankel. China bis 960. Berlin, Frankfurt, Vienna. vol. 2: p. 213.
  • Jan Fontein, Rose Hempel. China, Korea, Japan. Propylaen Kunsgeschichte Berlin. pl. 133.
  • Bernard S. Myers. Encyclopedia of World Art. New York, 1959-1987. vol. 8: p. 1039, vol. 8: pl. 408, vol. 10: pl. 256.
  • Great Drawings of All Time. 4 vols., New York. vol. 4: pl. 880.
  • Osvald Siren. Kinas Konst Under Tre Artusenden. 2 vols., Stockholm, 1942-1943. pl. 106.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Paintings in American Collections. Annales du Musee Guimet. Bibliotheque d'art. Nouvelle serie. II Paris and Brussels, 1927-1928. pls. 1a-b, 2a-b.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Painting: Leading Masters and Principles. 7 vols., New York and London, 1956-1958. vol. 3: pl. 9-10.
  • Laurence Sickman, Alexander Coburn Soper. The Art and Architecture of China. The Pelican History of Art London and Baltimore. pl. 49.
  • Shiho Sakanishi. The Spirit of the Brush. The Wisdom of the East series London. .
  • Tanaka Kenro, Omura Seigai. Chugoku meigashu [Collection of Famous Chinese Paintings]. 8 vols., Tokyo. vol. 2.
  • Hugo Munsterberg. The Landscape Painting of China and Japan., 1st ed. Rutland, Vermont. pl. 1.
  • Cai Ma. Ku K'ai-chih yen chiu. Shanghai. no. 3, pl. 16.
  • Chinese Antiquities [Shina koki zoko]. Tokyo. pl. 14, no. 2.
  • Kinjiro Harada. The Pageant of Chinese Painting. Tokyo. pl. 5.
  • Otto Fischer. Chinesische Landschaftsmalerei., 3rd ed. Berlin and Vienna. pl. 5.
  • Wen C. Fong, Jerome Silbergeld. Bridges to Heaven: Essays on East Asian Art in honor of Professor Wen C. Fong. 2 volume set, Princeton. .
  • Pao-chen Chen. The Goddess of the Lo River: A Study of Early Chinese Narrative Handscrolls. Taiwan. .
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 35, vol. 1: p. 156.
  • Li Pao-hsun. Wu i yu u chai lun lia shih [Paintings seen by the compiler]. p. 1.
  • Jerome Silbergeld. Kung Hsien's Self-Portrait in Willows, with Notes on the Willow in Chinese Painting and Literature. vol. 42, no. 1. pp. 5-38, fig. 2.
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 12.
  • Wen C. Fong. Images of the Mind: Selections from the Edward L. Elliott Family and John B. Elliott Collections of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting at the Art Museum, Princeton University. Exh. cat. Pinceton. p. 14.
  • Thomas Lawton. Chinese Figure Painting. Exh. cat. Washington, 1973. cat. 1, pp. 18-29.
  • Michael St. Clair. The Great Chinese Art Transfer: How So Much of China's Art Came to America. London, England. p. 20, fig. 2.1.
  • Willow Weilan Hai. "策展哲学." Philosophy of Curation. Nanning City, Guangxi Zhuang, China, September 2021. p. 24-25, fig. 7.
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga shi. 8 vols., Tokyo, 1981-1988. no. 23, pp. 24-25, vol. 1, pt. 2.
  • Susan Bush. Thunder Monsters and Wind Spirits in Early Sixth Century China and the Epitaph Tablet of Lady Yuan. vol. 72, no. 367 Boston. pp. 25-55, fig. 20.
  • James Cahill. Chinese Painting. Treasures of Asia Geneva and Cleveland. p. 27.
  • Mario Bussagli. Chinese Painting. Cameo London and New York. p. 33, pl. 13.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 44.
  • Otto Fischer. Die Entwickelung der Baum-darstellung in der chinesischen Kunst. Berlin, 1913-1914. pp. 52-64, 157-177.
  • John Calvin Ferguson. Chinese Painting. Chicago. pp. 55-56.
  • Arthur Waley. An Introduction to the Study of Chinese Painting. New York. pp. 60-62.
  • Agnes E. Meyer. The Charles L. Freer Collection. vol. 12, no. 2 Brooklyn, August 1927. p. 68.
  • Michael Sullivan. The Arts of China., 3rd ed. Berkeley. p. 90.
  • Toshio Nagahiro. Rikucho jidai bijutsu no kenkyu [Representational art of the Six Dynasties period]. Tokyo. p. 90, fig. 17.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. pp. 92-93, fig. 62.
  • Thomas Lawton. China's Artistic Legacy. vol. 118, no. 258 London, August 1983. p. 129.
  • The Horizon Book of the Arts of China. New York. p. 134.
  • Janet Marquardt, Stephen Eskilson. Frames of Reference: Art, History, and the World. Boston. p. 135.
  • Alexander Coburn Soper. Early Chinese Landscape Painting. vol. 23 New York, June 1941. p. 147, fig. 12.
  • Arthur Pontynen. Philosophia perennis ars Orientalis., Summer 1983. pp. 148-158, fig. 2, 4.
  • Michael Sullivan. The Birth of Landscape Painting in China. Berkeley. pp. 153-155, pl. 114b.
  • Melissa McCormick. Tosa Mitsunobu and the Small Scroll in Medieval Japan. Seattle and London. p. 156, fig. 85.
  • Ku K'ai-chih yen-chiu tzu-liao. Peking. p. 194.
  • Sherman Lee. A History of Far Eastern Art. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1964. p. 257, fig. 327.
  • Charles Patrick Fitzgerald. The Horizon History of China. New York. p. 300.
  • Otto Fischer. Die Kunst Indiens, Chinas und Japans. Propylaen-Kunstgeschichte, IV Berlin. pp. 330-331.
  • Taki Seiichi. Ku K'ai-chih's Illustration of the Poem of Lo-shen. no. 253. pp. 349-354.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy
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.