Poem in running script

Artist: Wang Wenzhi 王文治 (1730-1802)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, late 18th century
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
H x W (image): 178.7 x 44.9 cm (70 3/8 x 17 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

China, pavilion, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, running script

To 1997
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (born 1929), New York City, to 1997

From 1997
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in 1997 [1]


[1] The total gift from the Ellsworth collection consists of nearly three-hundred objects (F1997.42-.85 and F1998.83-294). All Chinese calligraphy in the proposed gift were published in Mr. Ellsworth's Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950, vol. 3 (New York: Random House, 1986) (see Curatorial Note 2, Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, May 19, 1998, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014


The vermilion tower juts into the sky,
A gleaming moon travels the void.
Silvery billows and this soul of jade,
Intersperse to form a luminous glow.
Trees are dark by the Han River ferry,
Clouds lower on the walls of Ezhu.
I do not know now where that flute is,
Playing the tune of Falling Plums.

Wang Wenzhi worked primarily in the orthodox model-letters tradition and was one of the most highly regarded calligraphers of his day, especially for his standard script and running script, as seen here. In contrast to his contemporary Liu Yong (1720-1805; see F1997.45.1-2), Wang generally preferred to use pale gray ink and adhered quite strictly to time-honored traditions in his composition and execution of individual characters. Praised for its elegance and balance, Wang Wenzhi's calligraphy stands without peer as the stylistic epitome of the model-letters tradition in the late eighteenth century. This scroll records one of Wang Wenzhi's own poems describing the view from the famous Yellow Crane Pavilion, which is located in modern Wuhan, a large city on the central Yangtze at its confluence with the Han River.

Born in the town of Dantu (near modern Zhenjiang) in Jiangsu Province, Wang Wenzhi was a precocious youth, winning local renown for both his poetry and calligraphy by the age of twelve, and earning national recognition as a young man by finishing third in the national examinations of 1760. He served in various low-to-mid level government positions in the capital and provinces until 1767, when he was dismissed as prefect of Lin'an in Yunnan Province owing to misconduct by subordinates. Wang returned home and abstained from government service thereafter, alternately teaching in private educational institutions in Jiangsu and nearby Zhejiang Province or living in leisurely retirement and devoting himself to various literary and artistic pursuits.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vol. 1: p. 244, vol. 3: p. 5.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 2, pp. 60-61, 127.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 256-261.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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