56 3/10 x 53 1/8 in. (143 x 135 cm)
Purchase, Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat Gift, Louis V. Bell and Rogers Funds, and Lita Annenberg Hazen Charitable Trust Gift, in honor of Ambassador Walter H. Annenberg, 1988 (1988.82)
9 1/8 x 36 1/2 in. (23.2 x 92.7 cm)
Inscribed by the artist (far left) and by the Qianlong emperor (r. 1736–95; upper left, dated 1746)
Ex coll.: C.C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973 (1973.120.6)
H. 20 in. (50.8 cm)
Gift of Edgar Bromberger, in memory of his mother, Augusta Bromberger, 1951 (51.166)
H. 53 1/2 in. (136 cm), W. 17 3/4 in. (45 cm)
Signed: "The Yellow Crane Mountain Woodcutter Wang Meng painted this for the lofty scholar of the Simple Retreat"
Ex coll.: C.C. Wang Family, Promised Gift of the Oscar L. Tang Family (L.1997.24.8)
During the Yuan dynasty, Chinafor the first time in its long historywas completely subjugated by foreign conquerors and became part of a larger political entity, the vast Mongol empire. Ironically, during this century of alien occupation, Chinese culture not only survived but was reinvigorated.
Lacking experience in the administration of a complex empire, the Mongols gradually adopted Chinese political and cultural models. Ruling from their capital in Dadu (also known as Khanbalik; now Beijing), the Mongol Khans increasingly assumed the role of Chinese emperors. During the 1340s and 1350s, however, internal political cohesion disintegrated as growing factionalism at court, rampant corruption, and a succession of natural calamities led to rebellion and, finally, dynastic collapse.
In spite of the gradual assimilation of Yuan monarchs, the Mongol conquest imposed a harsh new political reality upon China. As a group, the literati were largely ignored by the Mongols; those few who did enter government service often received only minor appointments, either as teachers in local schools or as low-level clerks. Southern Chinese, having resisted the Mongol invasion the longest, faced a conscious policy of discrimination, leading many scholars to withdraw from public life to pursue their own personal and artistic cultivation, often under the aegis of the Buddhist or Daoist religions. Drawing on the scholar-official aesthetic of the late Northern Song, Yuan literati painters no longer took truth to nature as their goal but rather used painting as a vehicle for self-expression. In the hands of highly educated scholar-artists, brushwork became calligraphic and assumed an autonomy that transcended its function as a means of creating representational forms.