Art/ Collection/ Art Object

清 王禮 狸奴圖 軸

Wang Li (Chinese, 1813–1879)
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper
47 3/8 x 15 5/8 in. (120.3 x 39.7 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986
Accession Number:
Not on view
Signature: Qiu daoren Wang Li

Artist's seal: Poem and Painting by Qiuyan (square, white characters)

Artist's inscription:
Two poems in highly idiomatic language by Youxia are recorded and annotated by Wang Li. The annotations are translated here [these annotations are a recital of the lore of cats.]

Inscription after the first poem: Kittens are categorized by the number in the litter. If only one, it is a dragon. If two, they are tigers; and if three, they are cats, and four, they are rats. Kittens are born with their eyes closed. When you stare at the kittens the mother will pick them up in her mouth and hide them. When they become two to three months old they are called "young silkworm cats." A white cat with a black tail and spots on his head is called "iron stick beating the cherries". If one is born with a rat-shaped mark on his mouth, he will be a great hunter. "Jixiao" is the name for owls and means a cat-headed eagle. When purring, a cat is said to be chanting a Buddhist sutra. There is a children's song in the Suzhou area: "When chickens fight, both fly. Even if the cat comes they do not fear." There is a proverb: "If someone offers you a yellow cat or a white dog, never take him." Jumpy people are called "white-footed piebald cats". In the toyshop there are large and small cats made of clay. "The cat who steals food is the worst", and "the rat-catcher never cries" are two Suzhou proverbs. When children cry in the night, they are threatened with the coming of the red-eyed cat.

Inscription after the second poem:
"Ahua mimi" is the call women use to bring their cats. When calling out to a friend in front of his door, it is like "calling your cat in the night". The word for a cat howling incessantly in the night is the word used for "erection". "The cat who sleeps in the dew" is the expression used fro a man who often stays out all night. June 6th is Cat and Dog Day. There is a children's song: "On June 6th all cats and dogs play by the lake". On that day all families eat hunton [wonton] soup. People who know a bit about everything but nothing in depth are called "three footed cat". In Suzhou the eldest child is called "big cat-head"; the second child is called "second cat-head"; the third, "third cat-head" and so on, in order. The man who sleeps with your daughter before marriage is known as a "cat-foot son-in-law". When one who cannot sing sings, we say "the old cat calls". A heartless person crying false tears is "a cat who cries for a rat". The cat who sleeps at the stove [looking for the good life] is the "stove-snuggling cat".
The "Xueshi er diao [Snow-lion tune] is an old folk tune. There are as many wonderful tales about cats and their traits as trees in the forest. But none of the later ones compare with early ones. For fun, my friend Youxia collected Suzhou proverbs and made these two poems that I have recorded here.

Jin Daoren Wang Li by candlelight at the Qiushui yijen Studio.

A poem written in Actional script:
"Dripping tiles barely dried, the morning sun is already high.
Patches of moss flashing crisp green, waist-high grows the grass.
Rich green everywhere presses summer to come;
High tides last night flooded out the broken bridge.
Water standing, flooding, until I feel almost sick;
Adapting my dress to sudden bursts of warmth becomes quite hard.
I awake from my sleep in the studio with nothing to do.
Now and then, hidden birds break the silence."
[Trans. by J. Chaves, CC.]

Marking: Collectors' seals: Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (two)
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