Reminiscences of Nanjing: Ancient Pine at the Nunnery of Hsu Mansion

Artist: Shitao (1642-1707)
Historical period(s)
Qing dynasty, 1707
Ink on paper
H x W (image): 23.8 x 19.2 cm (9 3/8 x 7 9/16 in)
China, Nanjing
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Album, Painting

Album leaf

China, pine tree, Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911)

Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). [1]

To 1987
Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), New York. [2]

From 1987
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Arthur M. Sackler, New York. [3]


[1] See object record.

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Zhang Daqian China, 1899-1983
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987


Shitao's painting is noted for its innovative simplicity of expression and bold vigor. Unlike many acclaimed Chinese painters of his generation, he avoided conscious imitation of earlier masters' style. This painting and another, displayed on the opposite side of the doorway, belong to an album, Reminiscences of Nanjing, that Shitao created in the last year of his life. The artist had lived in Nanjing during the 1680s, serving as monk-in-charge of a Buddhist temple. 

In the poem in this painting, Shitao provide the location of the pine tree and suggest it was planted during the Six Dynasties (317-589). He weaves together thoughts about the hoary strength of the old pine--a symbol of integrity and steadfastness in Chinese lore--with a reference to the Buddhist Pure Land, where the souls of believers are reborn. These joint images of moral uprightness and salvation seem self-reflective.

The son of a Ming dynasty (1368-1644) prince, Shitao was an infant when his parents were murdered at the fall of the dynasty. He was raised incognito in a Buddhist monastery, and it was expected that, as a royal descendant, he would never serve the new Qing dynasty (1644-1911). Therefore, Shitao became a reclusive monk, but ultimately his success as a painter brought him wider social interaction, which helped sustain him psychologically and encouraged his exploration of a pathbreaking style.

Published References
  • Jonathan Hay. Shitao: Painting and Modernity in Early Qing China., reprint. Taibei shi. .
  • Chang Wanli. Shitao shuhua ji [Selected Painting and Calligraphy of Shih-Tao]. multi-volumed, Hong Kong. vol. 4, pl. 95.
  • Richard Edwards. The Paintings of Tao-chi 1641-ca 1720: Catalogue of an Exhibition Held at the Museum of Art, University of Michigan, August 13-September 17, 1967. Exh. cat. Ann Arbor. pp. 44, 94, fig. 19.
  • Richard M. Barnhart. Wintry Forests, Old Trees: Some Landscape Themes in Chinese Painting. Exh. cat. New York. p. 63.
  • Les Trois Reves du Mandarin. Exh. cat. Brussels. cat. 84c, pp. 106-7.
  • Marilyn Fu, Fu Shen. Studies in Connoisseurship: Chinese Paintings from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections in New York, Princeton, and Washington, D.C., 3rd ed. Princeton, 1973. pp. 302-313.
  • et al. Asian Art in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery: The Inaugural Gift. Washington, 1987. cat. 206, p. 310.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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