Image: 10 3/8 x 57 in. (26.4 x 144.8 cm)
Overall with mounting: 10 5/8 x 336 1/4 in. (27 x 854.1 cm)
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Purchase, Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1973
Not on view
Fang Congyi, a Daoist priest from Jiangxi, traveled extensively in the north before settling down at the seat of the Orthodox Unity Daoist church, the Shangqing Temple on Mount Longhu (Dragon Tiger Mountain), Jiangxi province. Imbued with Daoist mysticism, he painted landscapes that "turned the shapeless into shapes and returned things that have shapes to the shapeless."
According to Daoist geomantic beliefs, a powerful life energy pulsates through mountain ranges and watercourses in patterns known as longmo (dragon veins). In Cloudy Mountains, the painter's kinetic brushwork, wound up as if in a whirlwind, charges the mountains with an expressive liveliness that defies their physical structure. The great mountain range, weightless and dematerialized, resembles a dragon ascending into the clouds.
Inscription: No artist’s inscription, signature, or seal
Cheng Nanyun 程南雲 (active 1403–after 1440), 4 large characters in seal script and 1 column in standard script, undated; 1 seal:
A genuine work by Fanghu [Fang Congyi]. Inscribed by Cheng Nanyun, Vice Minister of Imperial Sacrifices [of the] secondary [capital, i.e. Nanjing] and Attendant Academician of the Classics Colloquium. [Seal]: Qing Xuan
方壺真跡 太常少卿兼經筵侍書程南雲題。 [印]: 清軒
1. Gao Gu 高榖 (1391–1460), 23 columns in standard script, dated 1447; 3 seals:
Cloudy Mountains was made by the lofty Daoist monk of the Shangqing [Temple], Fang Fanghu [Fang Congyi]. Connoisseurs collected it because they believed it to be a precious object. Judging from the dexterity of the brushwork and the depth of the conception, clearly [Fang’s] paintings are of the same standard as those by Mi Nangong [Mi Fu, 1052–1107] and Gao Fangshan [Gao Kegong, 1248–1310]; they must not be compared to later artists who learned only the superficials. In this scroll, the layered peaks are tinted with the colors of a clear day, now hidden, now revealed by the drifting mist and clouds; the long strip of mountain slope looks like a sandy embankment. The gates of the mountain home seem so quiet, as if no one is there. This must be either a choice realm of the immortals, or some supreme view of the mortal world.
In my family there used to be a painting by Fanghu, although its composition, treatment of depth, and proportions cannot possibly rival this scroll, the excellence of the spirit and the nuance in its use of ink are certainly comparable. Alas, ink-wash paintings like those of Fanghu are not to be frequently seen, even though his paintings have circulated in the world for only seventy-some years. This cannot help but redouble one’s feeling of admiration [for this work]. So I write a quatrain to commemorate this event:
The guest from Yingzhou cannot be seen; His soundless poems give profound pleasure. Intermittent clouds obscure the rustic cottage; Distant trees girdle the mountain slopes. Traces of the hermit are not to be found; The woodcutter has finished his song. Unrolling the painting, I imagine his loftiness, How truly I long to be [in this place].
Composed on the thirteenth day of the intercalary fourth lunar month in the summer of the dingmao year, the twelfth year of the Zhengtong era [May 27, 1447], by Right Assistant Minister of Works [of the secondary capital], Academician Expositor-in-waiting in the Hanlin Academy [of the secondary capital] and Official of the Classics Colloquium, Gao Gu of Huainan [in Jiangsu Province] [Seals]: Weiyang, Shiyong, Yu Zhai
2. Zhou Kai 周凱 (active early 15th c.), 13 columns in semi-cursive script, undated; 3 seals:
The lofty scholar of the Shangqing Temple, Fang Fanghu, In what year did he paint this Cloudy Mountains? How can his creativity be bound by common feelings? This realm is far removed from the mortal world. From Langfeng the path winds to the isle of Peng [-lai], The ethereal vapors lead to Daxiabiao. Rare grasses are fragrant, daylight lingers, Ripened peaches confer youthfulness. Towering palaces silhouetted against the azure sky, White clouds and blue mists making an expansive haze. As if seeing the shine of cinnabar within the caves, Or hearing the chirping of orioles in the trees. Guangcheng and An Qi, where are they? Facing this painting increases my admiration [for Fang]. When will he return riding the wind To relieve this dusty world of its deep ailments? Zhou Kai from Yongjia [in Zhejiang Province]. [Seals]: Ouyue, Zhou shi Zhonglü, Yu zaowu you
3. Gu Han 顧翰 (early 15th c.), 9 columns in semi-cursive script, undated; 3 seals:
The mountains green, The waters vast. Unrolling the painting feels like in the [region of the] Xiao and Xiang [Rivers]. It’s been more than twenty years since I was there. I hear the singing of the fishermen, the rain falling in the trees. Now seeing this painting is like being in a dream; Suddenly, I recall this land of seagulls and egrets. When will I cast off these worldly cares? Carrying the wine, I’ll go back again to row a boat and enjoy my leisure. Xuepo Daoren [Seals]: Xuepo, Xiaguo gongsun, Binghu qiuyue
4. Wang Qian 王謙 (mid-15th c.), 6 columns in standard script, undated; 3 seals:
One shower in the mountains does away with dusty air; A thousand cliffs and myriad ravines are half-hidden by clouds. Rocks conceal the clear water of the flowing brook; The path traversing the woods is obscure and hard to follow. In high and low abodes the immortals dwell; In various fields rest groups of cranes. Someday, I will move my home to this place. In spring, I will plow the land along the dikes. Wang Qian from Qiantang [in Zhejiang Province] [Seals]: Wang shi, Muzhi, Wushan jiuyin
There is a lofty person who possesses the Way, whose sobriquet is Fanghu. In his heart there is no trace of worldliness. His brush, imbued with clouds and mist, seizes the force of Creation, Like a whip that drives dragons and tigers. Evoking the realm of vast ocean and continents, The painting resembles Ten thousand miles along the Yangtze River. The Yang family should treasure this scroll in its collection generation after generation. After viewing and enjoying it, I write down my advice in an inscription. Shen Chengzhang of Wujun [Suzhou, Jiangsu] [Seals]: Xuan Zhai, Da Ming jinshi, Chengzhang
6. Qian Bo 錢博 (jinshi degree 1445; still active in 1460), 7 columns in semi-cursive/standard script, undated; 2 seals:
This secluded spot is no common place -- A Penglai realm on a foot-wide [picture] surface. The huts in the deep woods are tranquil and quiet; The flowing waters beneath the wilderness bridge are free. The birds fly away into the distant sky; Clouds drift among the mountains. In this place traces of men are rare; Along the pine-covered path light rain spots the moss. Qian Bo of Yunjian [in Jiangsu Province] [Seals]: Quan shi yanxia, Yunxin songyi
7. Zhan Jingfeng 詹景鳳 (1528–1602), 17 columns in standard script, dated 1597; 3 seals:
Former scholars titled this scroll by Fang Fanghu “Mountains of the Immortals.” They truly are mountains of the immortals. Although I have seen many paintings by Fanghu, I have never seen a work carefully done, but this scroll is carefully done in particular. Works ion color are rare, but this handscroll is painted with translucent red wash. Being subtle, it is surpassingly excellent. Vaporous and indistinct, it is not concerned with formal likeness. The painting has color but the color is diffuse; it cannot be described in terms of color. The conception is misty and inexhaustible; in its mood, free and subliminal, there is profound feeling. Therefore, the conception is still more difficult to match. If the painter were not an enlightened person like Fanghu, he could not attain this. Now I know that those paintings by Fanghu that are often seen and appear coarse are not painted with care. This scroll and the painting of Mount Shu in my collection are both carefully executed. Together they should be treasured as a pair of rare and eternal jade disks. Composed on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month of the dingyou year in the Wanli era [October 19, 1597] by Zhan Jingfeng, Dongtu fu. [Seals]: Zhan Jingfeng yin, Dongtu fu, Dong xi nan bei zhi ren
Fanghu’s brushwork often appears wild with little restraint. Although his fame was high like divine peaks and jade forests, he could not avoid this [fault]. His brushwork in this scroll conveys substantiality. It captures the spirit of Songxue [Zhao Mengfu, 1254–1322] and evokes the paintings of Shuming [Wang Meng, ca. 1308–1385], and therefore is superior to Zhao Yuan [active ca. 1350–1375] and the likes. In the winter of the wuzi year , my young colleague [Wang] Jiqian [1907–2003] returned from Beijing and brought this [scroll] back. Its return is worth a celebration. In spring, the first month of the jichou year , Wu Hufan recorded this after borrowing it for viewing for some ten days. [Seal]: Qian An
Qing emperor Xuantong 清帝宣統 (r. 1909–1911) Xuantong yulan zhi bao 宣統御覽之寶 Xuantong jianshang 宣統鑑賞 Wuyi Zhai jingjian xi 無逸齋精鋻璽
Wang Jiqian 王季遷 (C. C. Wang, 1907–2003) Zhenze Wang shi Jiqian shoucang yin 震澤王氏季遷收藏印 Huaiyun Lou jianshang shuhua zhi ji 懷雲樓鑑賞書畫之記 Ceng cang Wang Jiqian chu 曾藏王季遷處 Wang Jiqian yin 王季遷印 Huaiyun Lou 懷雲樓 Wang shi Jiqian zhencang zhi yin 王氏季遷珍藏之印 Jiqian jianding 季遷鑑定 Jiqian xinshang 季遷心賞
Unidentified Linxi zhuren (three times) 林西主人 Biyun Xuan (twice) 碧筠軒 Huaiyin Yang shi 淮陰楊氏 Zonghao zhen
 Translations of the colophons are modified from those in Mary Gardner Neill, “Mountains of the Immortals: The Life and Painting of Fang Ts’ung-i,” Doctoral dissertation, Yale University, 1981, pp. 262–65.  The translation of this colophon also integrates phrases from that in Wen C. Fong, Sung and Yuan Paintings, with catalogue by Marilyn Fu, exhibition catalogue, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1973, cat. no. 22, p. 120 and in Sherman Lee and Wai-kam Ho, Chinese Art Under the Mongols: The Yuan Dynasty (1279–1368), exhibition catalogue, Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1968, cat. no. 268.  Translation from Department Records.