Hawk Pursuing Water Birds

Artist: Follower of Lin Liang (ca. 1428-ca. 1495) Formerly attributed to Chao Yuezhi (1059-1129)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, late 15th-early 16th century
Zhe School
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 168.2 x 86.6 cm (66 1/4 x 34 1/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

China, hawk, heron, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644)

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

Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from You Xiaoxi 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. 1341, 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
You Xiaoxi (C.L. Freer source) late 19th-early 20th century


The style of this painting is close to that of Lin Liang, one of the most stellar fifteenth-century painters active at the court of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). This composition painted by one of his followers may preserve one of the great master's own lost works. The twentieth-century inscriptions on the work falsely assign it to a Song dynasty (960-1279) artist and can be disregarded as intrusive, later additions. 

Lin Liang's work features swift, bold brushstrokes, but here a slight stiffness and flatness reveal that it was a follower who created the painting. The brushwork here only hints at the brilliantly laid-out, tightly structured compositions of Lin that come to life with carefully paced movement of birds in flight. This work probably represents the court aesthetic at a level enjoyed by princely households outside of the palace.

Close observation of nature was one of the key features of Lin Liang's style-in particular, he mastered an idiom of marshes teeming with plants and water fowl that in their remoteness seemed desirable to his clientele living in busy, urban Beijing. Here, the waterfowl are prey to a swooping hawk, whose earthward lunge symbolizes strength and power. Predatory birds in fifteenth-century court-style painting became iconic images of the dynasty's vitality.

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