Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object

元 吳鎮 老松圖 軸
Crooked Pine

Wu Zhen (Chinese, 1280–1354)
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
dated 1335
Hanging scroll; ink on silk
Image: 65 3/8 x 32 1/2 in. (166.1 x 82.6 cm) Overall with mounting: 100 1/2 x 37 1/8 in. (255.3 x 94.3 cm) Overall with knobs: 100 1/2 x 40 1/2 in. (255.3 x 102.9 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1985
Accession Number:
Not on view
Because it retains its greenery even in the dead of winter, the pine symbolizes endurance and fortitude. For Yuan-dynasty scholars living under the alien rule of the Mongols, depictions of ancient pines became a potent metaphor for survival in the face of political discrimination.

Wu Zhen was an educated man who in more settled times would have followed a career in government service. He chose instead to live in reclusion in the mountains of Zhejiang Province. Calling himself the Plum Blossom Daoist (Meihua Daoren), he made a humble living through the practice of divination.

In his inscription, Wu describes the source of his inspiration for this painting:

In winter, the eleventh lunar month of the third year of the
Yuantong reign era [December 1335], while visiting the
Cloudy Grotto, I saw a crooked and twisting ancient tree.
So I wrote this picture to record what I saw. Meihua Daoren
[the Plum Blossom Daoist, Wu Zhen] playing with ink.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (2 columns in cursive script)

In winter, the eleventh lunar month of the third year of the Yuantong reign era [1335], while visiting the Cloud Grotto, I saw a crooked and twisting ancient pine. Thereupon I brushed this picture to record what I saw. An ink-play by Meihua Daoren [Wu Zhen].[1]


Artist's seals

Meihua An 梅花
Jiaxing Wu Zhen Zhonggui shuhua ji 嘉興吳鎮仲圭書畫記

Label strip

Unidentified artist, 3 columns in Japanese in standard script, undated (at the back of the mounting):

Ancient Pine painted by Wu Zhen
Wu Zhen, whose self-adopted names include Zhonggui, Plum-blossom Daoist, Plum Daoist, and Plum Monk, was a native of Jiaxing [in Zhejiang]. He was one of the four masters of the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). He died in the fourteenth year of the Zhizheng reign era [1354] at the age of 75. A treasure in the collection of Dongguan Shuwu (Gazing Eastward Studio)[2]

吳鎮筆 《老松圖》

Collector’s seal

蘭囗囗子囗囗 Lan ? ? zi ? ?

[1] Translation from Wen C. Fong. Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy 8th–14th Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, p. 446. Modified.
[2] Translation from Department records.
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