北宋 米芾 草書吳江舟中詩 卷 Poem Written in a Boat on the Wu River
Mi Fu (Chinese, 1052–1107)
Northern Song dynasty (960–1127)
Handscroll; ink on paper
12 1/4 in. × 18 ft. 3 1/4 in. (31.1 × 556.9 cm)
Gift of John M. Crawford Jr., in honor of Professor Wen Fong, 1984
Not on view
Sun Guoting's Manual on Calligraphy (687) states that calligraphy reveals the character and emotions of the writer. Few works demonstrate this principle as clearly as this handscroll by Mi Fu, the leading calligrapher of late Northern Song. Mi wrote Sailing on the Wu River with a suspended arm, working from the elbow rather than the wrist. It was not his aim to form perfect characters; instead, he entrusted his writing to the force of the brush, giving free reign to idiosyncratic movements, collapsing and distorting the characters for the sake of expressiveness. Su Shi (1036–1101) likened Mi's writing to "a sailboat in a gust of wind, or a warhorse charging into battle." Traditionally, calligraphy has been more highly esteemed in China than painting. In the 1950s when John Crawford began collecting it, most American scholars were unaware of its importance and the authenticity of many Crawford pieces was questioned. Today, these works are regarded as national treasures and the Metropolitan is the only leading museum in the West able to present major examples of this quintessential Chinese art form.
Inscription: Artist's inscription and signature (44 columns in semi-cursive and cursive scripts)
Yesterday’s wind arose from the west-north, And innumerable boats all took advantage of its favor. Today’s wind has shifted [and comes from] the east, And my boat [needs] fifteen men to tow. Their strength spent, I've hired more; [But even] one hundred in gold they consider too little. The boat crew, angered, begins to argue, So the trackers, sitting down, stare and complain. They've tried poles and again pulleys; They have had to swallow the yellow gorge rising in their throats. But the river mud seems to side with the trackers; Stuck on the bottom, [the boat] won’t budge. Paid more money, the men are no longer angry. Expectations satisfied, all resentment disappears. With a single pull, [the boat advances] like a wind-born chariot. The men shout out, as if rushing into battle! To the side I look toward the Yingdou Lake; So vast, [seemingly] without bounds are its shores. If even one drop cannot be drawn, What use is the distant West River? All things must find their proper time, So why is it that you have come so late? Zhu Bangyan sent this paper from Xiuzhou [present-day Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province]. I wrote it in a boat on the Wu River. Mi Yuanzhang [Mi Fu]
Qing emperor Xuantong 清帝宣统 (r. 1909–1911) Xuantong yulan zhi bao 宣統御覽之寳 Xuantong jianshang 宣統鋻賞 Wuyi Zhai jingjian xi 無逸齋精鋻璽
Zhang Wenkui 張文魁 (20th c.) Zhang shi Han Lu zhencang 張氏涵廬珍藏 Zhang Wenkui 張文魁 Han Lu Jiancang 涵廬鋻藏
Gu Luofu 顧洛阜 (John M. Crawford, Jr., 1913–1988) Gu Luofu 顧洛阜 Hanguang Ge 漢光閣 Hanguang Ge Zhu Gu Luofu jiancang Zhongguo gudai shuhua zhi zhang 漢光閣主顧洛阜鋻藏中國古代書畫之章
 Translation after Peter C. Sturman, Mi Fu: Style and the Art of Calligraphy in Northern Song China, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997, pp. 115–116, and Kwan S. Wong, Masterpieces of Sung and Yüan dynasty calligraphy from the John M. Crawford, Jr. Collection. New York: China House Gallery, China Institute in America, 1981, p. 29.