Palace Ladies of the Cinnamon Hall and Orchid Palace

View right to left

Artist: Formerly attributed to Li Gonglin (傳)李公麟 (ca. 1049-1106)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 15th century
Ink on paper
H x W: 36.8 x 164.8 cm (14 1/2 x 64 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


baimiao style, China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), ruled-line painting

To 1919
Wang Jiantang, Shanghai to 1919 [1]

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

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


[1] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 1318, 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.

[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
Wang Jiantang (C.L. Freer source) late 19th-early 20th century


This visually complex painting shows an exterior view of a palace harem, where the empress and imperial concubines took their leisure. Galleries and pavilions surround an artificial pond, in which two eunuchs calmly row a pair of pleasure craft past each other. In the pavilion at right, four other servants move furniture and sweep the floor, while palace ladies in elegant robes gather in small groups on the terraces of elaborate pavilions at back and left.
Executed by a draughtsman of consummate skill, the entire composition is extraordinarily detailed: columns are visible through the slats of half-drawn blinds, the vertical posts of sculpted balustrades support small carved animals, while the intricate decorations of the roofs, walls, and carved gunwales of the boats are all fully realized. A later label attached to the scroll attributes this work to Li Gonglin, the great Northern Song dynasty master of baimiao (plain-outline) drawing; however, it is unknown if Li ever created such a design. Scholarly opinion has varied on the dating of this unsigned painting, but it was probably executed by a stylistic descendent of Li's during the fifteenth century.

Published References
  • Amos Ih Tiao Chang. The Existence of Intangible Content in Architectonic Form Based upon the Practicality of Laotzu's Philosophy. Princeton. opp. p. 123.
  • Benjamin Rowland, Laurence Sickman, H. G. Henderson, Robert Treat Paine, Richard Ettinghausen, Eric Schroeder. The University Prints. Oriental Art Series O 4 vols. Newton, Massachusetts, 1938-1941. Section 2: Early Chinese Art, pl. 212.
  • William Cohn. Chinese Painting. London and New York. pls. 62-63.
  • Osvald Siren. Kinas Konst Under Tre Artusenden. 2 vols., Stockholm, 1942-1943. pl. 62.
  • Osvald Siren. A History of Early Chinese Painting. 2 vols., London. vol. 2, pl. 29.
  • Lorraine d'Oremieux Warner. Eastern Art: An Annual. vols. 2 - 3, Philadelphia, 1930 - 1931. pl. 72, fig. 23.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Paintings in American Collections. Annales du Musee Guimet. Bibliotheque d'art. Nouvelle serie. II Paris and Brussels, 1927-1928. pls. 32-33.
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Painting: Leading Masters and Principles. 7 vols., New York and London, 1956-1958. p. 61, pl. 201.
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku (Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting). 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. pp. 198-199.
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.