Cedar Tree, Day Lily, and Wagtails

Artist: Bada Shanren 八大山人 (朱耷) (1626-1705)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1700
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
H x W (image): 173.7 x 92.6 cm (68 3/8 x 36 7/16 in)
Credit Line
Bequest from the collection of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai, donated in their memory by Mr. Shao F. Wang
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

bird, cedar tree, China, lily, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Shao F. Wang collection

To 1997
Wang Fangyu (1913-1997) and Sum Wai (1918-1996), to 1997 [1]

To 1998
Shao F. Wang, New York and Short Hills, NJ, by descent, to 1998 [2]

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


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

[2] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Shao F. Wang
Wang Fangyu 1913-1997
Sum Wai 1918-1996


In traditional Chinese culture, the cedar is primarily revered for its longevity, but it can also symbolize one's father, especially when used in conjunction with the day lily, as here. In the same vein, the day lily is a common Chinese garden plant and frequent subject of paintings, but when it appears together with the cedar, the flower stands for one's mother. Similarly, the wagtail is often used as a metaphor for one's brothers. The painting may thus be viewed not only as an engaging natural scene but also as the portrait of a nuclear family.

While the soft lines in this painting are typical of Bada's late works, as are the wet, layered dots and ink washes, there is also a noticeable lack of cohesion in his representation of physical forms. The roots of the tree grow from the base of the cliff at right, for example, but the trunk seems to disappear halfway up, melting into the rock, and neither the roots nor trunk have any discernible connection to the branches that emerge at the top of the painting. Such deliberate indifference to compositional relationships is characteristic of Bada's paintings at this time.

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. 26, pp. 120-121.
  • 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
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.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.