Scholar’s rock

Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 17th-19th century
Lingbi limestone with wooden base
H x W x D: 74 x 25.5 x 20 cm (29 1/8 x 10 1/16 x 7 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of C.C. Wang
Arthur M. Sackler Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone

Scholar's rock

China, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)
Provenance research underway.

In China, irregularly shaped rocks have long been prized as art objects. Specimens from certain quarries, especially Lingbi in Anhui Province, were admired for their aesthetic appeal, spiritual qualities, and likeness to mountains, which they represented in a reduced form suitable for contemplation in a scholar's study. A good rock is judged by its ability to provoke playful visual associations, perhaps by conjuring up an image of a cloud or by stimulating daydreams of walking through caverns to encounter immortal beings, who, according to Chinese folklore, reside in caves.

Throughout history, Chinese collectors have been willing to pay dearly for rocks, and painters have often studied them for inspiration. Although an ideal scholars' rock should be untouched by human artifice, many rocks show barely perceptible traces of tool marks. Thus, artisans occasionally enhanced the pictorial quality of a natural rock.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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