Poem by Wang Jian, in running script

Artist: Xing Tong (1551-1612)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, late 16th-early 17th century
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 193 x 62.1 cm (76 x 24 7/16 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, emperor, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), palace, running script
Provenance research underway.

This scroll contains the first in a series of one hundred quatrains, titled Palace Poems by the Tang dynasty poet Wang Jian (ca. 751-ca. 830). Taking the emperor in his cosmological role as the Son of Heaven, the poem equates the imperial palace in the capital city of Chang'an (modern Xi'an, Shaanxi Province) with the mythical island of Penglai--home to divinities, immortals, and other supernatural beings--which purportedly rides on the head of a giant turtle in the depths of the Cyan (or Indigo) Sea:

Penglai's central palace presses down the cloudy turtle,
As the crimson sun appears from billows of the Cyan Sea.
When the Five Gates open, we behold far off to the north,
In new drapes of yellow-orange, the emperor's throne on high.

Especially esteemed for his running script, as seen here, the calligrapher Xing Tong is considered one of the leading masters of the late-Ming dynasty (1368-1644). This hanging scroll is his most monumental surviving work.

(Translation by Stephen D. Allee)

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