Scripture of the Inner Radiances of the Yellow Court in running-standard script

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Artist: Bada Shanren 八大山人 (朱耷) (1626-1705)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1684
Ink on paper
H x W (avg. leaf, image): 22 x 11.7 cm (8 11/16 x 4 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — funds provided by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation 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
Album, Calligraphy


China, Daoism, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Shao F. Wang collection, standard script

To 1997
Wang Fangyu (1913-1997), to 1997 [1]

To 1998
Shao F. Wang, New York and Short Hills, NJ, by descent, to 1998

From 1998
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Shao F. Wang in 1998


[1] According to Curatorial Note 6, Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, May 7, 1998, and Joseph Chang and Stephen D. Allee, August 18, 1998, in the object record.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Shao F. Wang
Wang Fangyu 1913-1997


Dating to the mid-fourth century of the common era, the Huangting neijing jing (Scripture of the Inner Radiances of the Yellow Court) was one of most influential texts belonging to the Shangqing (Highest Purity) School of medieval Daoism. Essentially a manual of meditation and physical hygiene, it describes the arcane means by which one may attain good health and eternal youth. Containing 435 lines divided into thirty-six stanzas of irregular length, the Scripture also has a long history in the calligraphic tradition. This tradition was undoubtedly what inspired Bada Shanren to transcribe the text, rather than its philosophical or religious content. The famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi (ca. 303-ca. 361 C.E.), who was himself a practicing Daoist, is said to have transcribed the text once in standard script. But while Bada specifically acknowledged his debt to Wang in his postscript (leaf 20), he actually chose to write the Scripture using his own interpretation of fourth-century standard script, rather than to follow any received rendition of the text attributed to Wang. This postscript, written in running script and dated 1684, bears the artist's earliest known signature using the name Bada Shanren.

The current album is incomplete, consisting of four discrete sections that together comprise a little less than two-fifths of the total text. The first stanza (leaf 1), which serves as a kind of general introduction, may be paraphrased as follows:

Before the Lord of the Void, who resides among purple auroras in the Heaven of Highest Purity,
The Most High Jade Dawn Ruler of the Great Dao
Dwelt at ease in the Palace of Stamens and Pearls, composing lines in heptasyllabic meter,
Dispersing change to the Five Shapes and transforming the ten-thousand deities.
These comprise the Yellow Court Scripture and are called the "Inner Verses,"
Which harmonize the heart and set the embryo immortals to dancing in the Triple Cinnabar Fields,
Causing the Nine Breaths to glisten and gleam and emerge from the empyrean of the brain,
And the pupils of the eyes under the divine canopies of the brows to emit a purple mist.
This is called the Jade Text which can be scrutinized with a pure heart:
By reciting it ten thousand times one will ascend to the Triple Heaven,
With it one may dispel the thousand calamities and cure the hundred illnesses,
And undaunted by the fell depredations of tigers and wolves,
One may also thwart old age thereby and extend one's years forever.

Translation by Stephen D. Allee

Published References
  • Mingjia hanmo: Zhongguo mingjia fashu quanji [Han Mo: Calligraphy of Famous Masters]. 2 vols., Hong Kong. pp. 6-17.
  • Joseph Chang, Quianshen Bai, (Catalogue) Stephen Allee. In Pursuit of Heavenly Harmony: Paintings and Calligraphy by Bada Shanren from the Bequest of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 2, pp. 38-41, 142-43.
  • Yuan Li. "近距离阅读大师." Exploring the Enigmas of Bada Shanren – Freer’s Special Exhibition Review., 284. Shanghai, May 2016. F1998.29.1-2 and F1998.29.11-12, p. 64.
  • 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. 251, 262, fig. 6.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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