Art/ Collection/ Art Object

南宋 佚名 騎驢圖 軸
Chan master riding a mule

Unidentified Artist Chinese, active mid-13th century
Southern Song dynasty (1127–1279)
before 1249
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Image: 25 1/4 in. × 13 in. (64.1 × 33 cm) Overall with mounting: 58 1/4 × 13 1/2 in. (148 × 34.3 cm) Overall with knobs: 58 1/4 × 15 1/4 in. (148 × 38.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988
Accession Number:
Not on view
Painted in a few swift brushstrokes and deftly applied ink washes, Chan Master Riding a Mule exemplifies the freely expressive manner of Chan (Zen, in Japanese) Buddhist painting, which relies less on descriptive detail than on the capturing of spiritual concentration within the artist to achieve a vivid depiction. Inscribed by the noted Chan master Wuzhun, to whom it traditionally has been attributed, the painting is probably the work of a contemporary Chan artist following the sketchy brush style of Liang Kai (active first half of the thirteenth

Wuzhun, well known for his wisdom as well as for his eccentric behavior, inscribed this painting while he was living at the Qingshansi, a Chan temple near Hangzhou, where he settled after he was rewarded by Emperor Lizong (r. 1225–1264) following an imperial audience. The rider's facial features-prominent forehead, mustache, and wispy beard-are not unlike those of Wuzhun himself, whose formal portrait, with an inscription by him dated 1238, is now in the Tofuku-ji temple in Kyoto. His laconic inscription may also be a self-deprecatory reference to himself:

As rain darkens the mountain,
One mistakes a mule for a horse.
Inscription: Other inscription

Wuzhun Shifan 無準師範 (ca. 1175–1249), 3 columns in cursive script, undated;1 illegible seal:

As the rain comes, it is dark in the mountain.
He sees a mule, and mistakes it for a horse.[1]
Written by Shifan, a monk from Mount Jing [near Hangzhou].

徑山僧師範書。 [一印不辨]

Collector’s seals

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

[1] Translation from Wen C. Fong, Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy 8th–14th Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, p. 350. Modified.
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