Daoist Scripture of Constant Purity and Tranquility, in standard script

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Artist: Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322) Kangli Naonao (1295-1345)
Historical period(s)
Yuan dynasty, ca. 1292
Ink on silk
H x W (image): 29 x 58 cm (11 7/16 x 22 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Regents' Collections Acquisition Program
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


China, Daoism, standard script, Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)
Provenance research underway.

According to tradition, Laozi (6th century B.C.E.), the founder of Daoism, originally dictated this teaching to the goddess Queen Mother of the West. His words were then transmitted orally through generations of Daoist adepts until the text was written down by a believer named Ge Xuan (164-244 C.E.) and later became part of the official Daoist canon.

The scripture was transcribed on this scroll as an act of religious piety and artistic contemplation by Zhao Mengfu, the preeminent calligrapher of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). Writing a long text in such precise characters is technically demanding, and examples of Zhao Mengfu's small standard script are highly prized by collectors and connoisseurs. His brushstrokes are soft and steady, neat yet lively, creating in the mind of the viewer a calm, restful impression very much in harmony with the content of the text.

To learn more about this and similar objects, visit http://www.asia.si.edu/SongYuan/default.asp Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy.

Published References
  • Nakata Yujiro, Fu Shen. O-bei shuzo Chugoku hosho meiseki shu [Masterpieces of Chinese Calligraphy in American and European Collections]. 6 vols., Tokyo, 1981-1983. vol. 3: pl. 14-17.
  • Fu Shen, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Thomas Lawton. From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 6, 8, pp. 30-31, 34-35.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. p. 45, fig. 7.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy
Google Cultural Institute
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