Qian Xuan was a celebrated Song loyalist who, following the Mongol conquest, supported himself through painting. Toward the end of his life, however, he complained that his works were being forged. Here, both the calligraphy and painting are modeled closely on Qian's style, suggesting that the work is a faithful copy.
Qian's composition was inspired by Tao Qian's (365–427) poem "Returning Home," written in 405 after Tao resigned from public office. In it, Tao expresses his preference for poverty over the compromises and constraints of official life, establishing forever the ideal of the home and garden as a personal retreat. Clearly, Qian saw Tao's poem as a reflection of his own life in reclusion. Using the archaic "blue-and-green" style in a new, purposefully naive manner, he created a dreamlike environment that exists outside the realm of temporal troubles. His poem, written to the left of the picture, is both an appreciation of Tao and an expression of his state of mind:
In front of his gate he plants five willows, The eastern fence, he picked chrysanthemums. In his long chant is a lingering purity, There is never enough wine to sustain him. To live in this world it is necessary to become deeply drunk, To take office would only bring shame. In a moment of inspiration he composes "Returning Home" The poem of one thousand years.
Inscription: Artists’ inscriptions and signatures
1. Unidentified artist after Qian Xuan 錢選 (ca. 1235–before 1307), 5 columns in semi-cursive script, undated:
In front of his gate he plants five willows; By the eastern fence, he picks chrysanthemums. In his long chant is a lingering purity, But there is never enough wine to sustain him. To live in this world it is necessary to become deeply drunk, For to take office would only bring shame. In a moment of inspiration he composes “Returning Home”, The poem of a thousand years. Qian Xuan, Shunju, from Wuxing [in Zhejiang Province]
2. Xianyu Shu 鮮于樞 (1246–1302), 43 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1300:
“Ode on Returning Home”
To get out of this and go back home! My fields and garden will be overgrown with weeds– I must go back. It was my own doing that made my mind my body's slave Why should I go on in melancholy and lonely grief? I realize that there's no remedying the past But I know that there's hope in the future. After all I have not gone far on the wrong road And I am aware that what I do today is right, yesterday wrong. My boat rocks in the gentle breeze Flap, flap, the wind blows my gown; I ask a passerby about the road ahead, Grudging the dimness of the light at dawn. Then I catch sight of my cottage– Filled with joy I run. The servant boy comes to welcome me My little son waits at the door. The three paths are almost obliterated But pines and chrysanthemums are still here. Leading the children by the hand I enter my house Where there is a bottle filled with wine. I draw the bottle to me and pour myself a cup; Seeing the trees in the courtyard brings joy to my face. I lean on the south window and let my pride expand, I consider how easy it is to be content with a little space. Every day I stroll in the garden for pleasure, There is a gate there, but it is always shut. Cane in hand I walk and rest Occasionally raising my head to gaze into the distance. The clouds aimlessly rise from the peaks, The birds, weary of flying, know it is time to come home. As the sun's rays grow dim and disappear from view I walk around a lonely pine tree, stroking it.
Back home again! May my friendships be broken off and my wanderings come to an end. The world and I shall have nothing more to do with one another. If I were again to go abroad, what should I seek? Here I enjoy honest conversation with my family And take pleasure in books and cither to dispel my worries. The farmers tell me that now spring is here There will be work to do in the west fields. Sometimes I call for a covered cart Sometimes I row a lonely boat Following a deep gully through the still water Or crossing the hill on a rugged path. The trees put forth luxuriant foliage, The spring begins to flow in a trickle. I admire the seasonableness of nature And am moved to think that my life will come to its close. It is all over– So little time are we granted human form in the world! Let us then follow the inclinations of the heart: Where would we go that we are so agitated? I have no desire for riches And no expectation of Heaven. Rather on some fine morning to walk alone Now planting my staff to take up a hoe, Or climbing the east hill and whistling long Or composing verses beside the clear stream: So I manage to accept my lot until the ultimate homecoming. Rejoicing in Heaven's command, what is there to doubt? On the twelfth day of the eleventh [lunar] month in the gengzi year of the Dade reign era [December 23, 1300] Xianyu Shu wrote this in a guest house of Weiyang [Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province]. [Seals]: Xianyu, Boji yinzhang, Hulin yinli
On returning home, Quanming [Tao Yuanming] composed an unadorned ode. Abstaining from society, he drowned his pride in wine. Avoiding fame, he ironically remains a luminary through the thousand years; His journey on boat has been a favorite subject among painters. Inscribed by Emperor Qianlong [Seals]: Jixia yiqing, Qianlong chenhan
Unidentified 周季良氏 復卦 [one of the 64 hexagrams] 郭氏家藏 軍司馬印
 Trans. by Wai-kam Ho in Sherman E. Lee and Wai-Kam Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368), Exh. cat. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968, cat. no. 184. Modified by Wen C. Fong, in Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th–14th Century, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, p. 316.
 Trans. by James Robert Hightower, The Poetry of T'ao Ch'ien, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970, pp. 268–70.