Excerpt from the Third Stone Drum Poem in seal script

Artist: Wu Changshuo 吳昌碩 (1844-1927)
Historical period(s)
Modern period, 1917
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 147.3 x 38 cm (58 x 14 15/16 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, hunting, Modern period (1912 - present), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, seal 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 hunting chariot is ever so steady;
The metal-ornamented reins are …
The mailed four-horse teams are completely select.
The left outer-steed is spirited;
The right outer-steed is robust.
We thereby ascend the plain.
Our war chariots come to a halt on a knoll;
The palace chariot is unhitched.
We draw our bows and wait to shoot.*

One of the most influential painters, calligraphers, and seal carvers of the modern era, Wu Changshuo was born in Zhangwu village in northwestern Zhejiang Province. When Taiping rebels swept into the province in 1860, the seventeen year old fled with his father into the mountains, where they lived off nature for some four years and were the only survivors of their nine-member family. After 1872 Wu traveled extensively in the Yangtze delta, cultivating relations with a wide circle of scholars, artists, and collectors, and resided alternately in Suzhou and Shanghai for the rest of his life. Wu's national fame began to soar after the founding of the Republic of China in early 1912, and he attracted many young aspiring artists as his students and followers.

As a calligrapher, Wu Changshuo is especially admired for his running script and seal script, both of which can be seen on this scroll. His seal script is based on a famous group of ancient stone inscriptions from around the fifth century B.C.E. The Stone Drums, also known as the Hunting Stone Inscriptions, are a set of ten carved granite boulders inscribed with a unique form of early seal script. Although there is considerable debate as to their age and purpose, the drums are the earliest stone inscriptions unearthed in China to date. Rediscovered around the seventh century C.E., these highly eroded inscriptions were best known to later scholars and epigraphers through old rubbings. Wu Changshuo became fascinated with this unique ancient script and set about reinterpeting it with brush and ink. The current scroll falls within Wu Changshuo's most intense period of experimentation with stone drum calligraphy. Wu also added a comment, which shows the distinct leftward slant that is a hallmark of his personal approach to running script.

* From translation by Gilbert L. Mattos, The Stone Drums of Ch'in, Monumenta Serica Monograph Series XIX (Nettetal: Steyler Verlag, 1988), 220.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vols. 1, 3: pp. 309-10, 146.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 13, pp. 102-5, 134.
  • 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. p. 260, fig. 3.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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