Planting Chrysanthemums

Artist: Lu Zhi (Chinese, 1495–1576)

Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

Date: mid-16th century

Culture: China

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and pale color on paper

Dimensions: Image: 42 x 10 3/4 in. (106.7 x 27.3 cm)
Overall with mounting: 107 1/4 x 19 in. (272.4 x 48.3 cm)
Overall with knobs: 107 1/4 x 22 1/2 in. (272.4 x 57.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Edward Elliott Family Collection, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1986

Accession Number: 1986.266.3


Planting Chrysanthemums was presented by Lu Zhi to his friend Dao in exchange for some rare cuttings. To express his ideal of reclusion, Lu here combines poetry with painting. His poem reads:

I hear you have opened up a "Dao path" near the ocean,
Where clouds of leaves and frost-covered flowers vie in wondrous splendor.
I too have built a new residence at Zhixing Mountain,
May I share some of your autumn colors on my eastern hedge.

The first two lines of Lu's verse allude to "Peach Blossom Spring," a famous poem by his friend's namesake Dao Qian (365–427) in which a fisherman stumbles upon a hidden utopia. In the last two lines, Lu Zhi suggests that he has planned his own utopian retreat, and refers to the growing of chrysanthemums, a passion he shared with Dao Qian.

Lu Zhi was the son of a Suzhou schoolteacher and a pupil of Wen Zhengming (1470–1559). After his father's death, Lu supported his family by selling his paintings. About 1557, Lu retired to the mountains west of Suzhou, where he led a reclusive life cultivating rare flowers, writing poetry, and painting. Awash in mist and soft colors, the crystalline mountains in Lu's painting evoke perfectly the dreamlike Peach Blossom Land of the immortals.