Spring Offerings

Artist: Wu Changshuo (Chinese, 1844–1927)

Date: dated 1919

Culture: China

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and color on paper

Dimensions: Image: 58 x 31 1/2 in. (147.3 x 80 cm)
Overall with mounting: 100 3/8 x 39 3/8 in. (255 x 100 cm)
Overall with knobs: 100 3/8 x 43 in. (255 x 109.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1988

Accession Number: 1988.324.2


Wu Changshuo adopted the "antiquarian epigrapher's taste" pioneered by Zhao Zhiqian (1829–1884): a deliberately naive, slightly awkward manner derived from the engravings on archaic stone monuments. Wu's favorite subjects were bold colorful images of flowers and rocks that found a ready market among Shanghai's new urban class. Spring Offerings presents popular emblems of long life and renewal appropriate for a New Year's greeting: lingzhi mushroom, narcissus, a garden rock, and the bright red berries of the nandina plant. It is not an image from nature, however, but an abstract arrangement that emphasizes epigraphic elements—round centered-tip brushwork, contrasts of form and blank space—in a simplified composition dominated by strong diagonal cross-movements.
Wu's boldly brushed poem reads:

The narcissus is long-lived and the lingzhi mushroom never fades,
At year's end their appearance consoles my loneliness.
The gnarled rock, set down by Heaven,
Is like the Kunlunnu tribesman who waits upon the [singing girl clad in] red silk.