Poem by Bai Juyi in running-cursive script

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Artist: Bada Shanren 八大山人 (朱耷) (1626-1705)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1700
Ink on paper
H x W (each leaf, image): 31.4 x 23.5 cm (12 3/8 x 9 1/4 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

Album leaves

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

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 3, 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


This thirty-four-line poem, Three Friends of the Northern Window, was written in 834 by the famous Tang-dynasty poet Bai Juyi (772-846). As usual, Bada Shanren's version of the poem disagrees with published editions, significantly affecting the meaning of several lines. Bada wrote out the poem again in 1703, some three and a half years after he created the Freer album leaves. This later version includes the same textual discrepancies, suggesting that Bada was working from memory and may simply have misremembered the poem in this way.

The "three friends" of Bai Juyi's poem are wine, poetry, and his favorite instrument, the qin (lute, or zither). These three were "friends" for Bada Shanren as well, and he surely identified with the closing lines of Bai's poem:

My three friends keep me company,
And not a day goes by we do not consort.
Left, I grasp the beaker of whitest jade,
Right, I stroke the stops of yellow gold,
And merry with wine, I do not fold the paper,
My brush just runs, jotting crazy words.
So who will take these words of mine,
And give my thanks to family and friends:
You may not believe that I am right,
But how can you believe that I am wrong!

(Translation by Stephen D. Allee)

Published References
  • 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. 25, pp. 116-119.
  • 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. 244-251.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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