Two Geese

Artist: Bada Shanren 八大山人 (朱耷) (1626-1705)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, ca. 1700
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
H x W (image): 184.1 x 90.6 cm (72 1/2 x 35 11/16 in)
Credit Line
Bequest from the collection of Wang Fangyu and Sum Wai, donated in their memory by Mr. Shao F. Wang
Shao F. Wang collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

China, goose, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911), Shao F. Wang collection, WWII-era provenance

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 2, 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)

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


Traditionally, wild geese were associated with Chan (Zen) thought as well as with ideas of travel, separation, and political exile. The birds were also an important theme in the painting of Bada Shanren and rank as one of his most popular subjects. With masterful control over his ink tonalities and the calligraphic execution of his brushstrokes, Bada was particularly adept at capturing the subtle coloration and natural manner of these birds in various postures of motion and repose. On one level, the painting may be taken as an indication of Bada's lingering affection for the secluded life of a Buddhist monk; but while the scene appears barren and desolate-all weathered rocks and sparsely grown cliffs-the pair of healthy, vigorous geese that are the painting's focus, one upright and alert, the other tucked in sleep, suggest the comfort of companionship within an otherwise bleak and inhospitable world.

The absence of a date and dedication on this scroll indicates that it was probably painted as a genre study intended for general consumption rather than as a profound personal statement or private communication. During his late career, Bada created many paintings similar to this, varying only the number of birds and relative complexity of composition, strong evidence of the commercial demand for such works from his brush.

Published References
  • Yuan Li. "近距离阅读大师." Exploring the Enigmas of Bada Shanren – Freer’s Special Exhibition Review., 284. Shanghai, May 2016. p. 66.
  • Joseph Chang, Quianshen Bai, Catalogue by 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. 27, pp. 122-125.
  • 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
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum