Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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南宋 傳直翁 藥山李翱問道圖 軸
Meeting between Yaoshan and Li Ao

Artist:
Attributed to Zhiweng (Chinese, active first half of the 13th century)
Period:
Song dynasty (960–1279)
Date:
before 1256
Culture:
China
Medium:
Horizontal painting mounted as a hanging scroll; ink on paper
Dimensions:
Image: 12 1/2 x 33 1/4 in. (31.8 x 84.5 cm) Overall with mounting: 49 1/8 x 34 in. (124.8 x 86.4 cm) Overall with knobs: 49 1/8 x 36 1/4 in. (124.8 x 92.1 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Edward Elliott Family Collection, Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1982
Accession Number:
1982.2.1
Not on view
This painting was inscribed by the Chan (Zen) Buddhist priest Yanxi Guangwen between 1254 and 1256, while he was abbot of Lingyin temple in Hangzhou. The work is an important example of early Chan Buddhist "apparition" painting, so called for its pale, sensitive brushwork.

Depicted here is a famous encounter between the Confucian scholar Li Ao (active ca. 840) and the Chan master Yaoshan. Having heard of the master's reputation, the scholar went to see him but was disappointed and remarked: "Seeing your face is not as good as hearing your name." The master replied: "Would you distrust your eye and value your ear?" Then, pointing up and down, the master indicated that the ultimate reality is in what can be seen, such as "clouds in the sky and water in a vase."

Yanxi Guangwen's inscription on the painting reads:

All moments of enlightenment come in a flash,
Why distrust your eye and value your ear?
Just as between the water and the clouds,
Do not say there is nothing there.

Just as the Chan master used riddles to sharpen the student's perception in spite of distracting hearsay, the Chan painter used a simple and spontaneous, albeit elusive, brush style to capture his fleeting vision of truth.
#7364. Meeting between Yaoshan and Li Ao
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For Audio Guide tours and information, visit metmuseum.org/audioguide.
Inscription: No artist’s inscription, signature, or seal

Other inscription

Yanxi Guangwen 偃溪廣聞 (1189–1263), 8 columns in semi-cursive script, undated; 2 seals:

All moments of enlightenment come in a flash;
Why distrust your eye and value your ear?
Just as between the water and the clouds,
Don’t say there is nothing there.[1]
???? [Seals]: Guangwen yinzhang, Yanxi

全機劈面來,賤目而貴耳。
便是水雲間,莫道無餘事。
住冷泉囗囗 [印]: 廣聞印章、偃溪

[1] Translation from Maxwell K. Hearn, How to Read Chinese Paintings. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008, cat. no. 13, p. 66.
[ Ellen B. Elliott , Princeton, NJ, 1981; sold to MMA]
Lawrence. Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas. "Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, 850–1850," August 28, 1994–October 9, 1994.

Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. "Latter Days of the Law: Images of Chinese Buddhism, 850–1850," November 16, 1994–January 11, 1995.

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. "Text and Image: The Interaction of Painting, Poetry, and Calligraphy," January 23, 1999–August 16, 1999.

New York. China Institute in America. "West Lake and the Mapping of Southern Song Art," September 13, 2001–December 9, 2001.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Great Waves: Chinese Themes in the Arts of Korea and Japan II," March 22, 2003–September 21, 2003.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum," March 12, 2004–August 8, 2004.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Secular and Sacred: Scholars, Deities, and Immortals in Chinese Art," September 10, 2005–January 8, 2006.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Brush and Ink: The Chinese Art of Writing," September 2, 2006–January 21, 2007.

New York. Japan Society Gallery. "Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan," March 28, 2007–June 14, 2007.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Anatomy of a Masterpiece: How to Read Chinese Paintings," March 1, 2008–August 10, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change," August 21, 2010–January 9, 2011.

Shanghai Museum. "Masterpieces of Chinese Tang, Song and Yuan Paintings from America," November 3, 2012–January 3, 2013.

London. Victoria and Albert Museum. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting 700–1900," October 26, 2013–January 19, 2014.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection I," October 31, 2015–October 11, 2016.

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