Image: 53 x 23 1/4 in. (134.6 x 59.1 cm)
Overall with mounting: 113 1/2 x 32 1/4 in. (288.3 x 81.9 cm)
Overall with knobs: 113 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. (288.3 x 92.1 cm)
Gift of Cécile and Sandy Mactaggart, 2002
Not on view
Mei Qing was born into a prominent family in Xuancheng, Anhui Province. Following the family tradition of scholarship, Mei passed the provincial (jüren) civil-service examination in 1654 and traveled to the capital to sit for the capital (jinshi) examination, which he took and failed four times, before giving up in 1667. Mei returned home and became involved in local scholarly pursuits and participated in a poetry and painting society to which the painter Shitao (1642–1707) also belonged.
This painting commemorates an outing that Mei and family members and friends made to Echo Hill (Xiangshan). Mei and some of the participants inscribed poems on the painting to further celebrate the occasion. Although the name of the recipient has been effaced, two seals belonging to Zheng Min (1633–1683), a noted painter from the Yellow Mountain region of Anhui, suggest that it may have been intended for him.
Throughout his career, Mei drew inspiration from actual topographic features. Here, he emphasizes Echo Hill’s precipitous cliff face overhanging the river. Although a relatively early work, the painting exhibits the hallmarks of Mei’s eccentric style: an unbalanced composition animated by the powerful thrusting shape of the cliff and an interest in contrasting ink tones and textures, as seen in the way the dry-brush contour lines of the landscape are set off by the delicate blades of grass and dark ink foliage dots.
Signature: Signed on the painting by Mei Qing (far left):
The rain clears on this fourth-month day; Along the Qing River we sail in our painted boat. The town is overcast, and the wilderness vast; Verdant mountains link with the waves. The flute in the wind saddens the poets; In the cloudy chamber old monks meditate. There is no dragon-fisher in view, But only the tranquil pool of water.
On the sixth day of the first month of summer [May 21], with Mr. [characters missing] and others, we boated on the Qing River. Each of us took a different rhyme to compose poems on. In addition, I painted a side of a valley to amuse those present. Your junior fellow student Mei Qing of Mount Qu [seals:] Quxing Qing ; Yuangong [Shi-yee Liu, trans.]
Inscription: Colophon, inscribed on the painting by Shi Runzhang (far right):
Echo Hill is to the south of town along the Qing River. Legend has it that it was where Dou Ziming, the immortal magistrate, fished for the white dragon. Li Taibai [Li Bai, 701-762] loved [this place] and composed poems about his visit there. Now that Mr. [characters missing] has come, Qushan [Mei Qing] has spent the whole day boating, singing, and making music. Each of us who were present composed poems. Qushan, in addition, has wielded his brush and made a painting of it, and asked the company to inscribe it with poems following different rhymes. I got the xia rhyme:
Rivers and mountains invite good company, Intoxicated among the strings and winds on a light boat. On the reddish cliff rocks penetrate the clouds; By the windy pool old trees bend. Under the clear sky stones are visible in the river; In early summer flowers still bloom by the temple. Looking back from my lofty studio, I reminisce again on the younger Xie [Xie Tiao, 464-499]. On the sixth day of the fourth lunar month of the guichou year [May 21, 1673] your junior fellow student Shi Runzhang [seals:] Yi wo cangjiang; Shi Runzhang yin; Yushan [Shi-yee Liu, trans.]
Colophon, inscribed on the painting by Shen Bi (second from right):
The water of the stream looks greener than dye; The magnolia oars drift in the noon breeze. The fishing dais is still here; Poems are up to you gentlemen. The clanking of the boat echoes across the empty pool; The sound of the bells arrives from distant temples. At a place where ancient worthies enjoyed wine and poetry, Chanting and gazing, how can one express fully one's thoughts? With respect, Gushan, Shen Bi [seals:] Ran Shen; Fangye; [?] li Shen Bi [Shi-yee Liu, trans.]
Colophon, inscribed on the painting by Mei Xuan (third from right):
The Qing River flows by the "Red Cliff;" [From the waterside one can climb the mountain.] Bamboo and trees in the pure glow, Fish and dragons amid the dusky mist. As to talent, the Court Servitor [Li Bai] is allegedly the keenest; Regarding fishing, it is [Dou] Ziming who knew about leisure. We are all visitors without a calculating mind; Seagalls fly back and forth, utterly free. Tongyai, your junior Mei Xuan [seals:] Wo ai qi jing; Mei Xuan zhi yin; Erzhi [Shi-yee Liu, trans.]
Colophon, inscribed on the painting by Mei Geng (fourth from right):
The song "The Qing River is Lovely" is playing; The immortal's dais still serves as a fishing jetty. Through the mist over the pool we hear carps jumping; Human voices touch off a flight of seagalls. Ordering wine, we get drunk under the reddish cliff; Looking for monks, we enter the verdant mountains. The boat turns around as we cheerfully sing; In the breezy sunset no one thinks of returning. Xueping, Mei Geng [seals:] Zhisou; Xueping; Ouchang [Shi-yee Liu, trans.]
Colophon, inscribed by Qin Xiangye (1813-1883) (on mounting to the right of the painting):
Mei Yuangong [Mei Qing] of Wanling was admired by Wang Wenjian [Wang Shizhen, 1634-1711] for his depictions of pines. I once acquired a landscape album by him. Evidently he is capable of painting more than just pines. My fellow townsman [from Wuxi], Wang Liangcai, showed me Yuangong's painting of boating on the Qing River, on which are poems inscribed by Shi Yushan [Shi Runzhang, 1619-1683] and Shen Fangye [Shen Bi], as well as Tongyai [Mei Xuan] and Xueping [Mei Geng] of the Mei family. The lofty spirit and profound flair [of this work] will appeal to viewers for a thousand years. Regrettably, [a portion of] the artist's dedication [giving the name of the recipient] was cut off. There are many ignorant people in the world. They burn zithers and cook cranes. It is really deplorable. Liangcai is obsessed with antiquities. He asked a mounter to patch up the painting to perfection, and asked me to write a colophon. Ah, this painting is like a steed, and Liangcai treasures it as such. Isn't it appropriate that it belongs to Liangcai! In the bingchen year of the Xianfeng reign era , I, Qin Xiangye [1813-1883], write this while getting ready for a trip to Xiling [Hangzhou]; [seal:] Danru Probing into the inscriptions, I suspect that this painting was done for Fangye [Shen Bi], but I dare not overinterpret them. Sometime in the future I will seek out the collections of literary works by those gentlemen, and investigate further for Liangcai. [Shi-yee Liu, trans.]
Marking: Collector's seals on painting (lower left corner):
Zheng Min (1633-1683)
Zheng Muqian tushu yin [The painting and calligraphy seal of Zheng Muqin (Min)] Qianren wanren nei yiren liang ren zhi [Among a thousand or ten thousand persons, only one or two know]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Traditional Scholarly Values at the End of the Qing Dynasty: The Collection of Weng Tonghe (1830–1904)," June 30, 1998–January 3, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "When the Manchus Ruled China: Painting under the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)," February 2, 2002–August 18, 2002.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dreams of Yellow Mountain: Landscapes of Survival in Seventeenth-Century China," September 13, 2003–February 22, 2004.