Shide Laughing at the Moon

Artist: Attributed to Zhang Lu (1464-1538)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, early 16th century
Zhe School
Ink on silk
H x W (image): 158.2 x 89.2 cm (62 5/16 x 35 1/8 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)

China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), monk, moon, Shide, Zen Buddhism
Provenance research underway.

This large solitary figure is the Chan (or Zen) disciple Shide, who lived during the Tang dynasty (618-907). Found in the wilderness as a homeless youth, Shide was set to work as a menial in the monastic kitchen of Guoqing Temple in the Tiantai Mountains of Zhejiang Province, where he later befriended an eccentric local hermit by the name of Hanshan. The two became constant companions and were famous for their bizarre behavior, especially the odd statements and manic laughter with which they often responded to ordinary questions.

Dressed in rags and with unkempt hair, Shide is often shown with a crude kitchen broom, which in this painting lies behind him on the ground. Standing with a crazed expression before a dark vertical wall of rock, head thrown back and mouth open in lunatic laughter, he gazes past dangling creepers to the pale full disk of the moon. Typical of Zhe School painting, which was mainly active in Zhejiang and Fujian Provinces during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the brushwork is fluid and vigorous with bold areas of skillfully graded ink tones.

Published References
  • Thomas Lawton. "画中人 上海书画出版社." Chinese Figure Painting. Shanghai, China. .
  • Constance Bond. Body and Face in Chinese Visual Culture. Harvard East Asian Monographs, no. 239 Cambridge, Massachusetts. .
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: p. 248.
  • James Cahill. Parting at the Shore: Chinese Paintings of the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty, 1368-1580., 1st ed. New York. pl. 56.
  • Thomas Lawton. Chinese Figure Painting. Exh. cat. Washington, 1973. cat. 29, pp. 124-125.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
SI Usage Statement

Usage Conditions Apply

There are restrictions for re-using this image. 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.