Writing a Poem on a Crimson Leaf

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 16th century
Medium
Ink and color on silk
Dimensions
H x W (image): 126.7 x 70 cm (49 7/8 x 27 9/16 in)
Geography
China
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1917.335
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Painting
Type

Hanging scroll

Keywords
China, lovers, marriage, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), poems, woman, writing
Provenance

To 1917
You Xiaoxi (late 19th-early 20th century), Shanghai, to 1917 [1]

From 1917 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from You Xiaoxi in 1917 [2]

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

Notes:

[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1210, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[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)

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

Label

Like many ancient legends, Writing a Poem on a Crimson Leaf has several versions, each with minor differences in detail. The main story takes place in the ninth century during the Tang dynasty (618–907) and concerns a court lady who writes a love poem on a red leaf. She then sets it afloat on the waterway that flows out of the palace. The man who finds the red leaf writes a poem in which he echoes his own longing for love, and he sends the leaf and the poems floating back to the palace. Of course, the same court lady chances upon the leaf and cherishes its poems. Later freed from her obligations to the imperial court, the lady is allowed to marry. On her wedding night, she happily discovers that her groom is the very man who wrote a love poem on her treasured red leaf. “Writing a poem on a crimson leaf” became a metaphor in Chinese literature to describe a happy marriage destined by fate.

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

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