Returning Home on a Moonlit Night

Artist: Formerly attributed to Lu Hong (active 713-742)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, early to mid-16th century
Zhe School
Hanging scroll mounted on panel; ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 155.1 x 107.1 cm (61 1/16 x 42 3/16 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), night

To 1916
Wang Jiantang, Shanghai to 1916 [1]

From 1916 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Wang Jiantang in 1916 [2]

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


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1077, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. 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. See especially, Curatorial Remark 10, H.C. Lovell, 1976, in the object record.

[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)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Wang Jiantang (C.L. Freer source) late 19th-early 20th century


Returning late at night, a gentleman waits on horseback as one his servants raps at the gate of a rustic dwelling. Picnic boxes and a jug suggest the end of a pleasurable excursion. Bamboo surrounds the fence, and a tall spare pine with stiff needles leans above the trail. Symbolizing the qualities of hardiness and resilience, pine and bamboo are favorite tokens of the scholar-recluse indicating both his moral integrity and aloofness from the world. Swathed in a thick, luminous mist, which fills the dells and hollows, a highland brook swirls under a low bridge and ripples past the tardy travelers. Steep, looming hills and jagged peaks enclose the narrow valley. As the full moon rises over distant mountains, its slanting rays catch the angles of rocky slopes and set the mists aglow.

The artist of this painting remains unknown, but the style and content identify him as a member of the Ming dynasty Zhe school, which preserved many traditions of the former imperial painting academy under the Southern Song (1127-1279). As here, many Zhe school paintings seek to evoke a strong sense of mood or emotion and often depict the cherished cultural ideal of a retired gentleman leading a serene existence in some imagined, idyllic wilderness. Painting fills the picture surface, reinforcing the feeling of closeness and drawing the viewer into the scene. Along the rocks and crests, flamboyant brushstrokes splash and break, then softly suffuse into washes of silvery translucence.

Published References
  • Chinese Dynasties. .
  • James Cahill. Parting at the Shore: Chinese Paintings of the Early and Middle Ming Dynasty, 1368-1580., 1st ed. New York. pl. 27.
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: p. 252.
  • Yu Hui. Ming China: Courts and Contacts 1400-1450. London, England. p. 62, pl. 6.10.
  • "明畫全集 /." The Complete Works of the Ming Dynasty [Ming hua quan ji]. vol. 20, Hangzhou, China. pp. 216-221, fig. 35.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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