Artist: Bada Shanren 八大山人 (朱耷) (1626-1705)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, ca. 1699?
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 87.3 x 44.2 cm (34 3/8 x 17 3/8 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

China, flower, 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 3, 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


Bada Shanren painted this undated work for a friend as a medium of social exchange and explained his motivation in an accompanying inscription that consists of a four line poem and short postscript. The theme of the painting and poem is the shaoyao peony, a popular garden plant. According to his postscript, Bada created this work on the annual celebration of the Birthday of Flowers--a festival that occurs on the twelfth day of the second lunar month--and was evidently responding to a poem written by his friend on the subject of the crab apple, which blooms at this time of year. Bada's poem reads:

I perused the classics, unnumbered glosses from the Han,
Lord Shao could not do any better than our feast today.
I dispatch this lovely flower within its pearl of jade:
Tell people just to wait until the later days of spring.

In the first two lines, Bada is simply saying: "I have looked diligently through the texts of antiquity and can find no record of a feast as sumptuous as the one we are enjoying today on the Birthday of Flowers." In the last two lines, Bada symbolically sends this painting of a budding shaoyao peony--which blossoms during the fourth lunar month--to remind his friend that in just a few weeks it will bloom even more splendidly than even the crab apple and other second-month flowers.

Poem translated by Stephen D. Allee

Published References
  • Kristen Chiem. Paintings, Peonies, and Ming Loyalism in Qing-Dynasty China, 1644-1795. vol. 67, no. 1 Durham, NC. p. 99, fig, 10.
  • 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. 23, pp. 110-111.
  • 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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