Artist: Yelü Chucai (Khitan, 1190–1244)
Period: Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Date: dated 1240
Medium: Handscroll; ink on paper
Dimensions: Image: 14 1/2 x 111 3/4 in. (36.8 x 283.8 cm)
Overall with mounting: 15 in. x 37 ft. 7 11/16 in. (38.1 x 1147.3 cm)
Credit Line: Bequest of John M. Crawford Jr., 1988
Accession Number: 1989.363.17
Yelü Chucai, a descendant of the ruling family of the Khitan Liao dynasty (907–1125), was a prominent statesman under the Mongol khans. This poem, his only extant autograph, shows boldly angular characters written in a simple yet imposing style. The blunt monumental calligraphy recalls that of another eminent statesman, Yan Zhenching (709–785), who wrote as though "inscribing stone with a stylus."
This poem is a plea for humanitarian rule. It ends with the admonition: "Despotic officials and shyster underofficials, may they feel ashamed!"