The Rock Bridge at Mount Tiantai

Artist: Zhou Jichang 周季常 (active late 12th century)
Historical period(s)
Southern Song dynasty, 1178
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 109.9 x 52.7 cm (43 1/4 x 20 3/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll (mounted on panel)

Arhat, bridge, Buddhism, China, miracle, mountain, Southern Song dynasty (1127 - 1279), temple, waterfall

The Daitoku-ji Temple, Kyoto [1]

From 1907 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased in Tokyo in 1907 [2]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] According to Curatorial Remark 8, citing Thomas Lawton, catalogue entry 19 of "Chinese Figure Painting," 1973: "At the end of the nineteenth century, the Daitokuji was in need of funds for repairs, and the paintings were used as a collateral for a loan. In 1894 Ernest Fenollosa arranged a special exhibition in which 44 of the paintings were shown at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Ten of those paintings were purchased by the Museum of Fine Arts. As an expression of gratitude, the Japanese presented one of the 44 paintings to Fenollossa, who subsequently sold it to Charles L. Freer in 1902 (F02.224). In 1907 while in Tokyo, Mr. Freer acquired another of the paintings from the set (F07.139)."
This object exhibits seals, colophons, or inscriptions that could provide additional information regarding the object’s history; see Curatorial Remarks in the object record for further details.

[2] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 543, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Daitoku-ji, Kyoto
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


The Tiantai Mountains are located in Zhejiang Province a short distance from the coastal city of Ningbo. Renowned for their wild, dramatic beauty, the mountains were reputedly the abode of gods and immortals. The natural rock bridge spanning a waterfall is one Tiantai's most famous sights. According to legend, this arch is also a pathway to paradise where the five-hundred luohan, saintly guradians of the Buddhist faith, worship and dwell among magnificent celestial temples. Those who venture to tread this perilous trail, however, find that the bridge, which narrows to a width of several centimeters, is obstructed at its far end by an insumountable block of stone.

Luohan are portrayed in Chinese paintings as Buddhist monks, for whom they stood as holy exemplars. While not directly worshipped, luohan could be induced through rigorous proofs of devotion to assist a pious supplicant in overcoming obstacles to salvation. Such a scene is illustrated in this painting. Three luohan stand on a swath of clouds in the foreground, while two others walk in the clouds above, patrolling the gates of a stately temple. Both groups observe the devout monk Tanyou (fourth century), who attempts to gain access across the bridge. According to the story, Tanyou was initially thwarted by the large stone, but persisted in his endeavor, praying and fasting for several days. Because of his sincerity, the luohan opened a gateway in the stone, allowing Tanyou to enter their heavenly temple and briefly join in the monastic routine. Afforded this taste of paradise, he was sent back to the world to live out his natural years. The painting captures the moment just before the stone was opened.

To learn more about this and similar objects, visit Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy.

Published References
  • Thomas Lawton. "画中人 上海书画出版社." Chinese Figure Painting. Shanghai, China. .
  • Wen C. Fong. Art as History: Calligraphy and Painting as One. Princeton. .
  • The Daitokuji: 500 Luohans. .
  • Hai wai i chen [Chinese Art in Overseas Collections]. Taipei, 1985. vol. 1: no. 60.
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: p. 250.
  • Laura S. Kaufman. Ippen hijiri-e: Artistic and Literary Sources in a Buddhist Handscroll Painting of Thirteenth Century Japan. Ann Arbor. fig. 149.
  • Wen C. Fong, Jerome Silbergeld. Bridges to Heaven: Essays on East Asian Art in honor of Professor Wen C. Fong. 2 volume set, Princeton. .
  • Wen C. Fong. The Lohans and a Bridge to Heaven. vol. 3, no. 1 Washington, 1958. pl. 1.
  • Ide Seinosuke. The Art of Ningbo and its Maritime Cross-currents. Japan. p. 28, fig. 23.
  • Wen C. Fong. Images of the Mind: Selections from the Edward L. Elliott Family and John B. Elliott Collections of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting at the Art Museum, Princeton University. Exh. cat. Pinceton. p. 64.
  • Thomas Lawton. Chinese Figure Painting. Exh. cat. Washington, 1973. cat. 19, pp. 94-97.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 166-167.
  • Gregory Levine. Long Strange Journey: On Modern Zen, Zen Art, and Other Predicaments. Honolulu, Hawaii. p. 184, plate 6.
  • Gregory Levine. Daitokuji: The Visual Cultures of a Zen Monastery. Seattle. p. 290, fig. 131.
  • Shou-Chien Shih. From Style to Huayi: Ruminating on Chinese Art History. Taipei, Taiwan. p.297, fig.184.
  • Phillip E. Bloom. Ghosts in the Mists: The Visual and the Visualized in Chinese Buddhist Art, ca. 1178. vol. XCVIII, no. 3 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 2016. p. 304, fig. 8.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. 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.