Couplet in running script

Artist: Duanfang 端方 (1861-1911)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, late 19th-early 20th century
Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on woodblock-printed paper
H x W (image, each): 128 x 29.5 cm (50 3/8 x 11 5/8 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 scrolls (pair)

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

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


When learning comes to be of use, one has always read too little;
If you haven't experienced a thing, you don't know how hard it is.

One of the greatest Chinese collectors at the end of the nineteenth century, Duanfang lived during the waning years of the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). He assembled outstanding collections of ancient bronzes, jades, seals, sculpture, paintings, calligraphy, rare books, and rubbings, some of which have found their way into the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. Most of Duanfang's published calligraphy is written in an orthodox form of running script in the model-letters tradition, as seen here. His work displays a fine sense of balance and proportion and is fully commensurate with his prominence as a collector and high official.

Devoted to studying and preserving China's traditional culture, Duanfang was nonetheless an advocate of modernization. He aligned himself with government reformers in 1898 and, despite their failure, was appointed to a series of governorships in the provinces until 1905. Duanfang was one of five envoys sent to the United States and Europe for eight months in 1905-06 to observe constitutional forms of government. On his return, he served as superintendent of foreign trade for southern ports, where he encouraged the modernization of industries along the lower Yangzi River. In 1909, he was briefly governor-general of Zhili Province (modern Hebei Province), and when several important railways were nationalized in 1911, he was appointed superintendent of the proposed Canton-Hankou-Chengdu line. Shortly afterward, when the people of Sichuan Province rebelled against the railroad, Duanfang was made acting governor-general of Sichuan and dispatched to suppress the revolt, but was soon murdered by his own disgruntled troops.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vols. 1, 3: pp. 294-95, 117.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 19, pp. 120-21, 137-8.
  • 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
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.