Couplet in running script

Artist: Jiang Ren 蔣仁 (1743-1795)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1789
Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on gold-flecked paper
H x W (image, each): 149.9 x 28.6 cm (59 x 11 1/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scrolls (pair)

China, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, running script

To 1997
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (1929-2014), New York, NY. [1]

From 1997
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, New York, NY. [2]


[1] Curatorial Remark 4 in the object record.

[2] See note 1. Also see Freer Gallery of Art Purchase List after 1920 file, Collections Management Office.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014


Ten meters around, dragon bamboo stands taller than the trees,
In five colors each, sacred mushrooms blossom as big as a fist.

Jiang Ren was a native of Renhe (modern Hangzhou), Zhejiang Province. A landscape painter, poet, and calligrapher, he is included for his seal carving among the Eight Masters of Xiling. Although praised by some contemporaries as the best seal carver of his generation and recommended on at least one occasion for an official position, he contrived to avoid any political entanglements, choosing instead to live quietly in a small rundown house outside the city. Jiang was solitary and taciturn by nature and kept aloof from society throughout his life.

As a calligrapher, Jiang Ren worked primarily in the orthodox styles of the model-book tradition, and while he sometimes wrote in clerical script, he is most highly regarded for his standard script and running script, as here. In his running script, Jiang typically blended thick, dark horizontal lines with thinner, less pronounced vertical strokes, using these variations to pattern and texture his overall composition. Jiang's output was rather small and surviving works are comparatively few, while dated scrolls such as this couplet are even rarer still.

This work is dedicated to an unidentified individual, evidently one of Jiang Ren's uncles, who was a poet and used the sobriquet Yipu (Gardener). Jiang presumably intended the two lines of the couplet to praise his uncle as an exceptional gardener capable of cultivating even such special plants as the "dragon bamboo" and sacred mushroom, a kind of fungus reputed to confer long life when ingested.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st ed. New York. vol. 1: p. 243, vol 3: p. 3.
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 5, pp. 70-73, 129-30.
  • Thomas Lawton, Thomas W. Lentz. Beyond the Legacy: Anniversary Acquisitions for the Freer Gallery of Art and the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. vol. 1 Washington, 1998. pp. 256-261.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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