Chrysanthemums and Pine Tree

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Artist: Wen Zhengming ζ–‡εΎ΅ζ˜Ž (1470-1559)
Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 1541
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 31.6 x 75.8 cm (12 7/16 x 29 13/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase β€” Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


bamboo, China, chrysanthemum, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), pine tree, tree, WWII-era provenance
Provenance research underway.

A grove, bordered by pine trees, overflows with masses of chrysanthemum and young bamboo. Individually, chrysanthemum is associated with vigor, pine trees with longevity, and bamboo with resilience. But as a symbolic pair, images of pine trees and chrysanthemums often allude to Tao Yuanming's (365-427) famous poem "Returning Home." After serving in government for little more than eighty days, Tao realized it was a disastrous mismatch and resigned, returning home. The painter Wen Zhengming, a Ming dynasty master known for his evocative landscapes, likewise once served in the government but spurned that life to return home. His painting of chrysanthemums and a pine tree alludes to Tao's poem and suggests the moral superiority of a life lived in seclusion:

Return home!
My fields and garden will be covered with weeds;
. . .
The three paths have become overgrown,
But pines and chrysanthemums remain.

Translation from A. R. Davis, Tao Yuan-ming (AD 365-427): His Works and Their Meaning, 2 vols. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983).

Published References
  • Suzuki Kei. Chugoku kaiga sogo zuroku [Comprehensive Illustrated Catalog of Chinese Painting]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1982-1983. vol. 1: pp. 204-205.
  • Nakata Yujiro, Fu Shen. O-bei shuzo Chugoku hosho meiseki shu [Masterpieces of Chinese Calligraphy in American and European Collections]. 6 vols., Tokyo, 1981-1983. vol. 5: pls. 51-53, II.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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