Returning Home

Shitao (Chinese, 1642–1707)

Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
ca. 1695
Album of twelve paintings; ink and color on paper
Image (each): 6 1/2 × 4 1/8 in. (16.5 × 10.5 cm) Each leaf with painting: 8 5/16 × 5 5/16 in. (21.1 × 13.5 cm) Each double leaf unfolded: 8 5/16 × 10 5/8 in. (21.1 × 27 cm)
Credit Line:
From the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Family, Gift of Wen and Constance Fong, in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Dillon, 1976
Accession Number:
  • Description

    Landscapes alternate with flowers in this album of twenty-four small leaves of paintings and poetic comments that is designed to be perused slowly, one pair of leaves at a time. Each painting and its accompanying poem were conceived as a single expressive image in a superb harmony of painting, poetry, and calligraphy. The paintings are "written" with the same type of brushstrokes as the calligraphy, while in the "painterly" calligraphy individual characters and brushstrokes in varying sizes and ink tones frequently imitate such pictorial motifs as orchid petals and leaves and misty and wavy landscape elements. Even the painter's seals are integrated into the design.

    Shitao ("Stone Wave"), a scion of the Ming imperial family, became a monk and a painter after the Manchu conquest of 1644. After many years of wandering from place to place in the south and spending nearly three years in Beijing, he "returned home" to Yangzhou toward the end of 1692.

    Gathering Lotus Flowers

    Fields of flowers and leaves fill ditches full of water;
    A fragrant breeze lingers by a boat gathering lotus flowers.
    Phrases of a tune mixed with the sound of oars striking the water
    Stir the white clouds, setting bits of them afloat.

    A Despondent Man from Qingxiang

    A despondent man from Qingxiang
    Passes by looking for old friends;
    With no money to buy a mountain to live on,
    He sleeps peacefully, pillowing his head on his own fist.
    Although he has seen much, beyond many rivers and skies
    He loses his heart to Cuncaoting ["Inch-Sized Thatched Hut"];
    In a light skiff you and he toured together,
    Not even a boatman was present to distract you.


    Words from a sympathetic heart are as fragrant as orchids;
    Like orchids in feeling, they are agreeable and always joyous;
    You should wear these orchids to protect yourself from the spring chill;
    When the spring winds are cold, who can say you are safe?

    On the Mountain Peak

    High on the Mountain, the beautiful colors are cold;
    Where flying white clouds cease to look white.

    Plum Blossoms and Bamboo
    First it shows one or two blossoms;
    Gradually we see five or ten flowers;
    In a setting sun with brilliant colors glowing in the distance
    How the beautiful flowers compete with my brush and ink.

    Returning Home

    As falling leaves descend with the wind,
    I return by the water through a thinning mist;
    I see a tiny hut clinging to the bank of a green stream;
    How soft and fat the white clouds look in the cold air.

  • See also