Flowers and Calligraphy

Artist: Bada Shanren 八大山人 (朱耷) (1626-1705)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1702-1704
Two album leaves mounted as one hanging scroll; ink on paper
H x W (each leaf): 30.1 x 34.2 cm (11 7/8 x 13 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

Album leaves (mounted as a hanging scroll)

China, chrysanthemum, 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 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) and Custodian(s)

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


This hanging scroll is comprised of two album leaves mounted one above the other. The subject of the painting (jade hairpin flowers) and the text of the calligraphy have no particular thematic connection; however, such incongruities are common in Bada Shanren's works. The only clear relationship between the two leaves is the complementary style of brushwork in which both the painting and the calligraphy were executed.

Prior to opening, the tubular white blossoms of the jade hairpin flower resemble the ornaments worn as hairpins by palace ladies, from which the flower's Chinese name derives. Blooming in the fall, this common garden plant was primarily cultivated for its broad, attractive leaves and sweet-smelling flowers. Traditionally, the jade hairpin seldom served as the primary focus of paintings, though Bada chose to explore the subject on more than one occasion. In keeping with the autumn season, the painting also shows a bunch of chrysanthemums in the upper-right corner.

Bada Shanren's quotation on the calligraphy leaf comes from the opening passage to the chapter "Copying" in the Xu shupu (Sequel to the treatise on calligraphy) by the Southern Song-dynasty calligrapher and poet Jiang Kui (ca. 1155-ca. 1235), who discussed the importance of copying the works of earlier masters in the process of learning calligraphy.

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. 29, pp. 130-133.
  • 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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