Couplet in clerical script

Artist: Gui Fu (1736-1805)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1793
Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on red paper
H x W (image, each): 99.8 x 24.7 cm (39 5/16 x 9 3/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scrolls (pair)

China, clerical script, couplet, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection

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 1, Joseph Chang, May 19, 1998, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014


No one around, the moon is about to set;
Buddha is here, the pines do not speak.

Clerical script for ninth "elder brother" Xiaosong [Huang Yi, 1744-1801] to correct, as we are presently together in Jining [Shandong Province]. Casually copied on the sixteenth day of the eighth lunar month in the guichou year [September 20, 1793], Yumen Gui Fu.

Gui Fu was an important eighteenth-century scholar of ancient writing and extended this interest to his own calligraphy and seal carving. He was especially admired for his works in clerical script, as seen here, which he studied from the inscriptions on stone memorial tablets dating to the Eastern Han dynasty (25-220 C.E.). In this couplet, he used thick, strong lines of even width to recreate the squat, horizontally compressed characters that are commonly found in such carved inscriptions. As indicated in three columns of running script below each line of the main text, Gui dedicated this couplet to his younger friend Huang Yi, who was also a renowned calligrapher and seal carver, as well as a fellow enthusiast of ancient styles of script.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vol. 1: p. 247, vol. 3: p. 13.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. .
  • 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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