Three Poems by Su Shi in standard script

Artist: Chen Jieqi (1813-1884)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, mid- to late 19th century
Hanging scroll; ink on bark paper
H x W (image): 80.2 x 16.5 cm (31 9/16 x 6 1/2 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 scroll

China, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, standard script, Tao Yuanming

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


Those fellows, the likes of Xi Kang and Ruan Ji,
Ended by burning up the oil in their own lamps,
But Jingjie for sure shone more brightly and far,
Returning home to companion the weeds and brush.
When new frost decked the sparse willows,
And the Great River rose with wind and wave,
By the eastern hedge he tended chrysanthemums,
And his thoughts did not dwell on the fragrant lees.
But when liveried servants came bearing a jug,
He directly got drunk and returned to casual roaming,
Far off and away he spied the Southern Mountain,
And his thoughts were as high as the autumn air.

Chen Jieqi was born to wealthy political family from Weixian, in Shandong Province. He passed the national examinations in 1845 and was given a clerical position in the palace, but soon retired to pursue his scholarly passion for antiquities. Chen managed to assemble a vast collection of ancient art that included several thousand rubbings of inscriptions on metal and stone, thousands of coins and metal seals, and hundreds of bronze vessels, many of extraordinary size and quality. In an age of great private collections, Chen Jieqi's was considered by many to be the finest of its time.

Most published examples of Chen Jieqi's calligraphy were written in seal or clerical script, but he was also fluent in the model-letters tradition and was particularly influenced by the Tang dynasty master, Yan Zhenqing (709-785). Though it lacks the characteristic monumentality of Yan's calligraphy or the solid presence of ancient bronze and stone inscriptions, this exquisite example of Chen Jieqi's small standard script is rendered with confident elegance, while the crisp, even brushwork displays an easy natural flow. The text consists of three poems by Su Shi (1037-1101), one of the greatest figures of the Song dynasty (960-1279). Translated above, the second poem is titled Inscribed on Li Gonglin's painting 'Tao Yuanming at the Eastern Hedge', which was ostensibly written by Su on a painting by one of his contemporaries, Li Gonglin (ca. 1049-ca. 1106), the most important figure painter of the Song dynasty. The poem concerns the archetypal poet-recluse, Tao Yuanming (365-427), who left office after a brief three months and repaired to the poverty of his rustic home near Mount Lu, in Jiangxi Province, where he raised chrysanthemums and enjoyed drinking wine.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vols. 1, 3: pp. 279-80, 82.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 18, pp. 116-19, 136-7.
  • 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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