Signature: Inscribed, three lines in running script; signed, dated 1549, two artist's seals.
Wen Zhengming has inscribed the picture at the left end, giving a brief account of the circumstances which prompted its creation. It reads:
In the third month of the jiyu year (1549) of the Jiajing era, the magnolias in the courtyard were just hesitantly beginning to flower—fragrant and lovely. So I sketched this for the fun of it.
Wen Zhengming wrote the following letter to Hua Yun (1488–1560):
On my last visit I troubled you for the hospitality of your kitchen and moreover, had the privilege of receiving your good instruction all day long. What a gracious plenty of wine, for which I thank you. There is no way really to express my gratitude. Since returning home I have been afflicted by malignant boils. Scratching all the time, day and night, I was disturbed when sitting or lying down, not to mention other matters. Because of this, I failed to thank you for your kindness until today. Please kindly pardon me. I do not know how big the stone tablet you formerly asked me to do should be. Now I expressly send you Mr. Wang Yachuan personally for the matter. Yachuan is a scholarly man, and I hope you might be able to help him out. Apart from all this, I am sending you my awkward picture of magnolias. (signed) Zhengming, with head bowed.
Postscript of the third month, 17th day: I cannot write another letter to your sons. Please remember me to them when they attend you.
[Trans. is a modified version of the original by Shujiro Shimada, as found in Laurence Sickman, ed. Chinese Calligraphy and Painting in the Collection of John M. Crawford, Jr. (New York, 1962), p. 136.
Wen Zhengming (1470–1559)
Ho Guanwu (20th century), dated 1957