Winter Travelers in the Mountains of Shu

Artist: Formerly attributed to Fan Kuan (傳)范寬 (ca. 960-ca. 1030)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, late 17th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 193.1 x 74.4 cm (76 x 29 5/16 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)

bridge, China, landscape, mountain, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), winter

To 1917
Li Wenqing (late 19th-early 20th century), Shanghai, to 1917 [1]

From 1917 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Li Wenqing, in New York, in 1917 [2]

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


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1173, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. See also, Voucher No. 18, December 1916.

[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


Below contorted peaks, the roofs and upper stories of three temples hover in the mist like the hulks of grounded ships. Scooped and hollowed by powerful forces, the mass of the mountains looms above them, resembling the kind of heavily eroded lake rock favored by wealthy Chinese as natural sculpture for their desks and gardens. In a vast reversal of scale, the singular twisted shape of such a rock has been enlarged, made monumental, to form the very mountain itself.

Paintings of fantastic landscapes such as this belong to the realms of poetry and dream, where ordinary people go about their everyday lives surrounded by an utterly surreal terrain. Wearing hoods and bundled against the winter cold, travelers on horseback briefly appear around a bend of rock at the middle left of the picture. Where the road re-emerges at lower left, other riders and men shouldering parcels thread their way single file across a zigzag wooden bridge and over curious stalagmite-like rocks that thrust from the riverbed below. A plank road supported by trestles and pilings hugs the face of the cliff at middle right, leading upward to an alpine village and ultimately to a tiny gateway in the distant mountain pass. This painting may depict the road to the famous Sword Gate Pass in Shu (modern Sichuan).

Published References
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: p. 254.
  • James Cahill. Yuan Chiang and His School: Part I and II. vols. 5-6 Washington and Ann Arbor, 1963 - 1966. vol. 5: pp. 259-272, pl. 2, fig. 4.
  • James Cahill. The Compelling Image: Nature and Style in Seventeenth Century Chinese Painting. The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures Cambridge, Massachusetts. p. 101.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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