Mandarin Ducks under Blossoming Plum Tree

Artist: School of Shen Quan (1682-after 1760)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, mid 18th century
Hanging scroll mounted on panel; ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 162.6 x 80.8 cm (64 x 31 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

bird, bird and flower, China, duck, flower, fungus-of-immortality, narcissus, plum blossom, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), tree

To 1916
Li Wenqing (late 19th-early 20th century), Shanghai, to 1916 [1]

From 1916 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Li Wenqing, in New York, in 1916 [2]

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


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1273, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. See also, LVC Catalogue, 1915, No. 64. 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


Because mandarin ducks mate for life they are common symbols of marital fidelity. Hence, this painting conveys wishes for a happy marriage to a newlywed couple. The sentiment is further strengthened by the inclusion of two magpies (shuangxi) as well as the plum tree (mei) on which the birds perch, which sounds like "eyebrow," phonetically. The combination of magpie and plum tree branch forms the rebus "May you have happiness up to your eyebrows." The red-berried nandina, a symbol of longevity, and the fungus, a symbol of immortality, form yet another rebus, which to the Western ear sounds humorous: "May the fungus of immortality grant you a long life." Plums, narcissus, and the nandina, because they bloom in early spring, also represent good tidings for Chinese New Year.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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