Poem in running-cursive script

Artist: Mi Wanzhong (1570-1628)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, early 17th century
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 249.7 x 56.5 cm (98 5/16 x 22 1/4 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — funds provided by the B.Y. Lam Foundation Fund
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), running-cursive script

Li Family Qunyuzhai Collection. [1]

From 1992
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased at auction, “Fine Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy from the Li Family Qunyuzhai,” Christie’s, New York, Dec 2, 1992, lot no. 31, “Running and Cursive Script Calligraphy”. [2]


[1] The hanging scroll was from the Li Family Qunyuzhai Collection, when Freer Gallery of Art purchased it from Christie’s, New York. See Christie’s auction catalog, “Fine Chinese Paintings and Calligraphy from the Li Family Qunyuzhai,”Christie’s, New York, Dec 2, 1992, lot no. 31, “Running and Cursive Script Calligraphy”. According to Dr. Shen C. Y. Fu’s notes, Mr. Li Qiyan (1919-1984) “was active as a collector primarily in the 1950s and early/mid 60s and acquired the vast bulk of his collection prior to his illness in 1969.” See document dated November 23, 1992, copy in object file, Collections Management Office. For further details on Mr. Li Qiyan's biography see the above mentioned auction catalog.

[2] See note 1. Also see Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List after 1920 file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Christie's (New York)
Qunyuzhai Li Family


Born and raised in Beijing, imperial capital of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Mi Wanzhong served in a number of low and mid-level government positions both at court and in the provinces. The particular blend of running and cursive scripts seen in this scroll is typical of the prevailing style of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. Somewhat raw and unpolished, Mi Wanzhong's calligraphy is much more forceful than that of Dong Qichang, the contemporary with whom he is most often compared.  Mi was also less concerned than Dong with the niceties and details of brushwork, and more interested in achieving a bold, robust overall effect. His poem describes the leisurely retirement enjoyed by a friend:

Lazily, he's let the weeds and creepers
grow along the path to his gate,

And does not allow any wheels or hooves
to damage the ancient moss.

Wherefore, then, are those hidden birds
so busily fluttering about?

Across the woods they call out at times
that a drinking friend has come.

(translation by Stephen D. Allee)

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