The Pure Recluse of Bamboo Creek

View right to left

Artist: Formerly attributed to Ni Zan 倪瓚 (1306-1374)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 15th century
Ink on paper
H x W: 24.3 × 55.4 cm (9 9/16 × 21 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), river, water

To 1919
You Xiaoxi (late 19th-early 20th century), Shanghai, to 1919 [1]

Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from You Xiaoxi, through P'ang T'szu Ch'en, in 1919 [2]

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


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1377, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. 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
You Xiaoxi (C.L. Freer source) late 19th-early 20th century


Ni Zan was an exceptionally popular painter and his style was often imitated by other scholar-artists both during his lifetime and in the centuries that followed. An early example of such imitation, this small handscroll bears a forged inscription of Ni Zan at right, together with a false date of 1363. With only a few minor discrepancies, the inscription contains the same poem that was written by Qian Weishan (see F1915.36d), only here the first line reads, "I often sketch bamboo to give to friends," and the forger has Ni Zan present himself as the author.

To the left of the painting, Chen Wan (1359-1422), a scholar-official who served at the Ming dynasty court, wrote an inscription dated 1405, which relates that a man named Wan Zifang, also known as The Pure Recluse of Bamboo Creek, asked a relative to bring this scroll to him to inscribe a poem. After doing so, Chen politely added, "Although Zifang and I do not know each other, [just by looking at this painting] one recognizes the personal integrity that instantly separates him from the dust-stained world," implying that only a person who shares the moral attributes of bamboo could own such a painting.

In 1759, some three-hundred-fifty-four years later, the Qianlong emperor (reigned 1735-96), who also owned the scroll, inscribed another short poem above the painting and impressed a number of his personal seals.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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