Couplet in running-standard script

Artist: Hongyi (1880-1942)
Historical period(s)
Modern period, 1932
Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on paper
H x W (image, each): 66.7 x 16.4 cm (26 1/4 x 6 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scrolls (pair)

China, couplet, Modern period (1912 - present), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, running-standard script

To 1998
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (born 1929), New York City, to 1998

From 1998
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in 1998 [1]


[1] All Chinese calligraphy in the gift were published in Mr. Ellsworth's Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950, vol. 3 (New York: Random House, 1986) (according to Curatorial Note 4, Joseph Chang, May 19, 1998, in the object record).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014


Bounty and increase for one and all;
Full and complete, supreme compassion.

As indicated in the small column of text on the right scroll, the calligrapher quoted these two lines from a Buddhist hymn at the end of chapter forty-four in the abstruse Avatamsaka Sutra (Garland sutra), which was preached by the Buddha directly after his enlightenment. Translated from Sanskrit into Chinese around 418-20 c.e., this sutra later became the central text of the Huayan School of Buddhism in China, which flourished during the Tang dynasty (618-907).

By the end of the nineteenth century, the young Li Shutong had already established his name as a traditional poet, author, painter, calligrapher, and seal carver. After studying Western art and music in Japan from 1905 to 1910, he returned to China a leading proponent of the new literature and worked as a journalist, literary and art editor, and college instructor. Despite his worldly success, Li experienced a profound spiritual dissatisfaction, and in 1918 he took holy vows as a Buddhist monk with the religious name of Hongyi, becoming a leading reformer of the clergy renowned for his austerity. Inspired by early sutra scrolls, Hongyi developed his own style of calligraphy, which is prized for its simple, unassuming character.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vols. 1, 3: pp. 328, 189.
  • 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
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
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