Poem by Sun Yiyuan in running script

Artist: Ni Yuanlu (1594-1644)
Calligrapher: Colophon by Yao Nai (1731-1815)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, mid-17th century
Ink on silk
H x W (image): 103.9 x 47 cm (40 7/8 x 18 1/2 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

China, drinking, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), running script, wine
Provenance research underway.

Ni Yuanlu underwent many vicissitudes in his career at the imperial court in Beijing. When the capital fell to rebel forces in 1644 and the last Ming emperor hanged himself in despair, Ni Yuanlu and twenty other loyal court officials, dejected over their failure to protect the dynasty, also committed suicide.

Ni Yuanlu is especially admired as a calligrapher for the quirky individuality of his slanted, angular style of running script. He wrote with great force, seeming almost to dig his brush into the writing surface. Mounted on the right of the scroll, a colophon by the famous Qing dynasty scholar Yao Nai (1732--1815) praises the "lean strength" of Ni's writing. Ni Yuanlu's undated text is titled Impromptu Poem While Drinking Wine:

I'll not just lie about with bound feet at the south window,
But fare abroad ten-thousand li wherever they shall lead me.
How can I be unconcerned with precious books and long sword?
In the light of day, I'll sing aloud at any thing of wonder.
Since Master Yang encountered only scorn in writing Mystery,
I will take Du Fu, who drank deeply, to truly be my teacher.
And there's no need to ask what I shall do with all my life,
I'll follow along and watch the hills, bamboo staff in hand.

Published References
  • Xu Yanchun. Zhongguo shufa dacheng. 8 vols., Beijing. vol. 6: p. 444.
  • Zhang Tingyu. Ming shi. 28 vols., Beijing. .
  • Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644-1912). 2 vols., Washington. vol. 1: p. 587.
  • William Theodore de Bary. Self and Society in Ming Thought. Studies in Oriental Culture, no. 4 New York and London. pp. 415-449.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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