The Palaces and Gate Towers of Penglai

Artist: Zhu Dan (mid- to late 17th century)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1683
Ink, color, and gold on silk
H x W (image): 228.7 x 101 cm (90 1/16 x 39 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

blue-and-green style, China, Daoism, Daoist Immortals, island, landscape, palace, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)

To 1909
Loon Gu Sai, Beijing, to 1909 [1]

From 1909 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Loon Gu Sai, Beijing, in 1909 [2]

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


[1] See Reserved Kakemono List, R. 613, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. According to Ingrid Larsen, "'Don’t Send Ming or Later Pictures': Charles Lang Freer and the First Major Collection of Chinese Painting in an American Museum," Ars Orientalis vol. 40 (2011), Loon Gu Sai was possibly Lunguzhai, a store in the antiques district of Liulichang.
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 note 1.

[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)

Loon Gu Sai (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


The paradise of Penglai is one of the mythological islands that are located in the ocean east of China and inhabited by Daoist deities and immortals. Full of towering peaks, mysterious caves, and gushing waterfalls--and closely associated with the quest for physical immortality--Penglai was the frequent subject of artistic fantasies, such as the painting seen here. In this vision of the magical isle, ornate palaces and pavilions, covered walkways, and opulent belvederes ascend the convoluted mountains from the sea below to their sheer upper slopes.

The artist Zhu Dan does not appear in any of the usual biographical sources and few of his works were recorded or survive today. Accordingly, both his life dates and the traditional cyclical date in his inscription on this scroll must be interpreted in light of the style and execution of the painting. Judging from the archaic conventions used on the tree trunks and foliage, and Zhu's rendering of the blue-and-green style, in which he employed bandlike areas of color whose boundaries are reinforced by additional ink and gold lines, the scroll may be placed in the late seventeenth century. This in turn establishes the date on the painting as 1683. In his inscription, Zhu further states that it took him three months to complete this monumental work.

Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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