Buddha’s Hand Citron

Artist: Bada Shanren 八大山人 (朱耷) (1626-1705)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1692
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 22.7 x 28.6 cm (8 15/16 x 11 1/4 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, Painting

Album leaf

China, citron, 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


Created after Bada Shanren had left the monkhood and become a professional artist, these four leaves (F1998.56.1 thru F1998.56.4) originally belonged to a larger album of similar ink sketches. Both style and subject matter are typical of his small-scale works during the late 1680s and early 1690s. Each object stands out boldly on the otherwise empty white paper, and the drawing is simple and straightforward, but Bada's brushwork and skillful use of ink achieve a wide range of tonal effects, from wet and light to heavy and dark.

An unusual term, sheshi, meaning "involved in affairs," serves as a primary compositional element in the leaf, showing a falling ink-flower, and appears in either Bada's signature or seals on two of the three remaining leaves. Bada used this term exclusively during the period between 1690 and 1693, when he was completely "involved" in perfecting his painting technique. Despite their outward simplicity, these four unassuming album leaves illustrate Bada's audacious approach to composition as well as his abiding concern with ink tonality and the visual possibilities of calligraphic brushwork in painting.

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. 5, p. 47.
  • 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. 65.
  • 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, 262.
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.

Related Objects