Project Topics

Presented here in text and image are eighty-five works of Song and Yuan dynasty painting and calligraphy in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art. The works are arranged in five thematic groups:

Each group is further subdivided into topical categories arranged in rough chronological order. Some groups contain contemporary paintings created in border regions beyond the control of Song and Yuan authorities as well as a small number of Ming dynasty works that continue Yuan styles.

Every work is fully documented through images and related text. Labels, frontispieces, inscriptions, colophons, and seals have been transcribed, and texts of art historical relevance are accompanied by annotated English translations.

Selection, authentication, and dating

The project team focused their research on a group of 110 paintings, calligraphic works, and rubbings that previously had been identified as dating to the tenth through fourteenth centuries. The new study of each work took advantage of earlier scholarly research, recorded opinions, publications, photographs, and other relevant materials preserved in various museum departments. Following a fresh review of the 110 works, the team determined that sixty-three definitely belonged to the Song and Yuan eras, fifteen were created during later periods beyond the scope of the project, and thirty-two others required further study.

In 2005, the museum invited Yu Hui, then chief curator of painting and calligraphy at the Palace Museum, Beijing, and a specialist in the Song and Yuan periods, to evaluate the team’s findings. Upon further deliberation, an additional nineteen paintings were added to the Song and Yuan group, while the remaining thirteen were provisionally assigned to the early Ming dynasty. Three of these later works strongly preserve the characteristic features of Song and Yuan painting and are included in the present web resource. Based both upon this collaborative process and his extensive expertise, curator Joseph Chang made all final determinations regarding date and authenticity. In due course, those works not featured in the current selection will be added as a reference appendix.

Provenance Research

The Freer Gallery of Art recently initiated a comprehensive provenance research project that seeks to clarify the late nineteenth-century and twentieth-century ownership history of artworks in its collection. Provenance research is ongoing for the eighty-five Song and Yuan works presented here and will be published in due course on this website, the main Freer and Sackler site, and the larger provenance website of the Smithsonian Institution.


Improvements to the website will continue over the coming years, with regular updates of both images and documentation. Updated images will include:

  • accoutrements such as boxes, wrappers, and labels
  • details of signatures, seals, and seal clusters
  • improved photography of paintings

Expanded documentation will comprise:

  • short introductory entries for each work
  • nineteenth- and twentieth-century ownership histories
  • brief biographies of Song and Yuan dynasty artists, calligraphers, and seal owners

Further research on the individual works will be added periodically, and the bibliography will be updated. For reference purposes, the most recent update will be noted in the table of contents and at the top of each document.


The Freer Gallery of Art thanks the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, whose generous financial assistance from 1998 to 2003 made this project possible.


Romanization of Chinese words employs the Pinyin system, with some adaptations made for compound words.

Chinese characters are rendered in their traditional complex forms, using the PMingLiu font.


In the notes, the abbreviation WSKQS refers to Wenyuange Siku quanshu dianziban ζ–‡ζ·΅ι–£ε››εΊ«ε…¨ζ›Έι›»ε­η‰ˆ (The Electronic Version of Siku quanshu [Wenyuange edition]). Hong Kong: Digital Heritage Publishing, The Chinese University Press, 1999.

In the documentation of seals, the fractional numbers in parentheses refer to the number of impressions; for example, (2/5) indicates that the same seal has been impressed on a work a total of five times, and that the current example is the second impression of that seal.


Inscription refers to any text written directly on the primary work of art.

Colophon refers to any text written on a separate piece of paper or silk that was subsequently attached to the primary work of art (except where designated as a label, frontispiece, etc.).


Stephen D. Allee, research specialist, produced the final manuscript, provided all translations, comments, and annotations, and assembled provenance documentation and the bibliography.

Joseph Chang, curator of Chinese painting, calligraphy, and seals, authenticated the dating of the Song and Yuan dynasty works in consultation with Yu Hui, Palace Museum, Beijing; transcribed difficult-to-read Chinese characters and seals; and proofread the final manuscript.

Ingrid Larsen, research specialist and in-house coordinator, organized project activities, conducted research on the formation of the collection, and contributed to the object records.

The project team was both inspired and guided by the acquisitions, connoisseurship, and scholarly research of their predecessors at the Freer Gallery of Art, especially:

Charles Lang Freer (1854–1919), founder
John Ellerton Lodge (1878–1942), the Gallery’s first director
Archibald Gibson Wenley (1898–1962), the Gallery’s second director
James Francis Cahill, former curator
Thomas Lawton, former curator and director
Hin-cheung Lovell, former associate curator
Fu Shen, former senior curator

A number of current and former staff members contributed immeasurably to the completion of this project:

Neil Greentree
Ann Gunter
Jeffrey Smith
Sarah Sullivan
John Tsantes
John Wang
J. Keith Wilson
John Winter