Sakyamuni Emerging from the Mountains

Artist: Traditionally attributed to Hu Zhifu 胡直夫 (13th century)
Historical period(s)
Southern Song dynasty, mid 13th century
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 92 x 31.7 cm (36 1/4 x 12 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Buddhism, China, Southern Song dynasty (1127 - 1279), Zen Buddhism
Provenance research underway.

The theme of Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha, emerging from the mountains became increasingly important in the Chan (or Zen) sect of Buddhism during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127). This painting, traditionally attributed to a little known painter Hu Zhifu, depicts some of the facial features, such as hair and beard, in detail, while the drapery of the robe was executed in a much more expressive manner. It has been suggested that the hidden hands of Sakyamuni symbolize his enlightenment with the ultimate truth.

The inscription at the top of the painting was written by the much better known Chan master Xiyan Liaohui (1198-1262), which can be rendered:

At midnight, he beheld the shining star,
In the mountains, he appended cold remarks.
Before his feet emerged from the mountains,
His remarks traveled through the world:
When I look at all the living creatures,
Becoming Buddha happens many times.
There is only you, you poor old fellow,
Who still is unaware of where he is.

To learn more about this and similar objects, visit Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy.

Published References
  • Thomas Lawton. "画中人 上海书画出版社." Chinese Figure Painting. Shanghai, China. .
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: p. 250.
  • Sogen minshin meiga taikan [General Catalogue of Famous Song, Yuan, Ming, and Ch'ing Paintings Exhibited in Tokyo]. Exh. cat. Tokyo. cat. 72.
  • Baron Kawasaki. Sale Catalogue of the Kawasaki Collection., 1928. cat. 11.
  • Helmut Brinker. Shussan Shaks in Sung and Yuan Painting. vol. 9 Washington and Ann Arbor. pl. 7.
  • Richard Edwards. The Heart of Ma Yuan: The Search for a Southern Song Aesthetic. Hong Kong. p. 19 and Plate 4a, fig. 1.8.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 56-57.
  • Thomas Lawton. Chinese Figure Painting. Exh. cat. Washington, 1973. cat. 21, pp. 102-105.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy
Google Cultural Institute
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