Art/ Collection/ Art Object

清 龔賢 自題 山水十六開 冊
Landscapes with Poems

Gong Xian (Chinese, 1619–1689)
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Album of sixteen paintings; ink on paper
10 3/4 x 16 1/8 in. (27.3 x 41 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1981
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 215
Remaining loyal to the vanquished Ming dynasty, the hermit Gong Xian came to terms with himself as an yimin, or “leftover subject,” under the Qing dynasty (1644–1911). In this leaf, from an album in which he compared his favorite haunts in and around the former Ming capital of Nanjing with the abodes of the immortals, Gong complemented his image of a reclusive dwelling with a poem that contrasts the ability of orchids, symbols of virtuous men, to endure the cold winter, while brambles — lowly men — are used as firewood. The artist perfected a technique of ink wash and dotting that enabled him to achieve both density and translucency in his paintings.
#7307. Ink Landscapes with Poems
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Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions and signature[1]

Leaf A (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

On the mountainside thorny brambles mix with fragrant orchids;The orchids, with their pervasive fragrance, hide the bramble clusters.
The brambles, as firewood, will be picked up by the woodcutters.
Left behind are the orchids to survive the cold winter.


Leaf B (9 columns in semi-cursive script):

Every family opens a door to face the sun,
Surrounded by books and with wine cups set forth.
What need is there to escape the Qin in some hidden cave?
Wherever peach blossoms bloom is the immortals’ land.


Leaf C (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

Two peaks split apart reveal the sky;
The marks of the ax remain where the green moss grows.
I'd like to ask the old pine tree atop the cliff,
If it had met the ancient sages when they came this way.


Leaf D (10 columns in semi-cursive script):

The bare branches of old trees guard the temple gate;
Outside the gate, no stone tablets have survived.
The roof-tiles of the Buddha hall have fallen and the bell lies buried in the earth;
Only sparrows and cranes remain to beckon the twilight.


Leaf E (7 columns in semi-cursive script):

Moonlight falls on the rocks, thinner than frost;
Awake at midnight from a drunken sleep, I find cold penetrating my bed.
I call out for Wang Zijin on the other side of the mountain,[2]
To play his pipe organ and accompany me strolling the winding veranda.


Leaf F (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

More rain falls and water rises to my wooden gate,
A visitor comes bringing a jug of wine.
My boy catches a fish and traps some crabs.
Smoke begins to rise from the kitchen just as dusk draws near.


Leaf G (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

The swollen river shines like a waning moon.
Sandy beaches stretch out for ten miles like broken clouds.
Willows brush against the storied mansion in which a beauty hides.
It doesn’t have to be Shi Chong's [ca. 249–ca. 300] home.[3]


Leaf H (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

The immortal in the cave opens his gate at dawn;
ermilion clouds disgorge the sun, then swallow it again.
As I walk up the bridge to dry my hair,
I glimpse my ravaged visage in the flowing stream.


Leaf I (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

Barely visible dwellings dot a winding stream,
Where fish swim and birds chirp.
Slightly intoxicated, I have come to search for poems,
Strolling toward the stream on a walking staff.


Leaf J (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

Who owns the vast expanse of fields in Luoyang,
Where ripe ears of rice hang by the sides of ancient roads?
Where has Jizi been wandering off?
The master is still asleep when the sun is high.


Leaf K (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

The mountains are newly green, and the orchids fragrant;
They flank my dwelling into a short corridor.
After reading some Daoist texts, I have nothing to do;
A wine cup in hand, I spend the whole day gazing at the shimmering lake.


Leaf L (2 columns in semi-cursive script):

On the glimmering bluff by the river shore,
Which god is being worshiped in that ancient temple?
What merit did the deity achieve on this earth?
He must have been a drunken poet of former times.


Leaf M (11 columns in semi-cursive script):

Living in a lofty retreat at a choice site in my middle years,
I am faced with dense rows of peaks.
Without care or cunning I share peace with the seagulls;
It doesn’t have to be the remote antiquity of Wuhuai’s time.[4]


Leaves N and O (23 columns in semi-cursive script):

To paint is difficult, but to understand painting is even more difficult. There are many painters in the world, but those who understand painting are few. If all those who paint understood painting, they would certainly become masters. But I am afraid masters are few. From what I’ve observed, no painters today understand painting. As for those who understand painting, even if they can’t paint, it doesn’t matter. In ancient times painters were all emperors, kings, ministers and high-ranking officials or gifted scholars and literati. They were all extremely intelligent and immersed themselves in the study of art. Painters today eke out their living just like hack instructors and quacks. Has any of them seen works from the Xuanhe era [1119–1125] imperial collection, or viewed works from either Ni Zan’s [1306–1374] Pure and Secluded Pavilion (Qingbi Ge) or Gu Ying’s [1310–1369] Jade Mountain Thatched Hall (Yushan Caotang)? The more [paintings] you’ve seen, the more you understand. Those in old and privileged families often debated with their guests in order to decide issues of authenticity. Thus, what one doesn’t understand today one may understand tomorrow. If one can both understand and paint, then one’s painting will be in accord with cosmic principles. Cosmic principles are the source of everything in nature. If one can plumb the source of nature, one will become a person with divine powers. Easier said than done! The minstrel from Ying [modern Jiangling, Hubei] could sing both [the elite melody] Spring Snow and [the popular ditty] Song of the Rustic Poor. I am a poor rustic, so how would I know the finer points of music? I just presumptuously air my own views. Is this any different from a summer insect talking about the ice of winter? In the early winter of the wuchen year [1688] Gong Xian of the Half-Acre Garden painted and inscribed.

作畫難,而識畫尤難。天下之作畫者多矣,而識畫者幾人哉?使作畫者皆能識畫,則畫必是聖手,恐聖手不如是之多也。吾見今之畫者皆不必識畫,而識畫者即不能畫庸何傷。古之畫者皆帝王卿相、才士文人,聰慧絕倫, 而游心藝學。今之畫者,不過與蒙師庸醫借以為糊口之計。亦曾繙閱宣和之庫,覽清秘於倪家,探玉山於顧氏乎?多所見則多所識。高門世冑日與賓客相詆詰,判其真贗。今者不識,而明日識之。 既能識,復能畫,則畫必有理。理者造化之原,能通造化之原,是人而天,談何容易也。夫歌於郢中者,陽春白雪亦歌,下里巴人亦歌。余巴人也,曷足以知含商吐角之妙,妄抒所見,何異夏蟲之語冰哉!戊辰初冬半畝龔賢畫并記。

Artist’s seals

Gong Xian 龔賢 [Leaf A]
Yeyi 野遺 [Leaf B]
Chaizhang 柴丈 [Leaf C]
Gong Xian 龔賢 [Leaf D]
Banshan 半山 [Leaf E]
Yeyi 野遺 [Leaf F]
Yeyi 野遺 [Leaf G]
Banqian 半千 [Leaf H]
Banqian (double seal) 半千 [Leaf I]
Banqian 半千 [Leaf J]
Xian 賢 [Leaf K] Gong Xian yin 龔賢印 [Leaf L]
Banqian (twice) 半千 [Leaf M]
Gong Xian zhi yin 龔賢之印 [Leaf O]
Banqian 半千 [Leaf O]

Label strip

Jin Cheng 金城 (1878–1926), 2 columns in seal and standard scripts, dated 1918; 1 seal:

山水十六葉,題跋二葉。戊午冬日重裝並記。金城 [印]: 鞏伯

Collectors’ seals

Chen Hengke 陳衡恪 (1876–1923)
Huaitang moyuan 槐堂墨緣

Jin Cheng 金城 (1878–1926)
Jin Cheng 金城
Jin Cheng 金城
Jin Cheng zhi yin 金城之印
Jin Cheng zhi yin 金城之印
Jin Cheng si yin 金城私印
Jin Shaocheng si yin 金紹城私印
Wuxing Jin Cheng zhencang (3 times) 吳興金城珍藏
Jin shi Gongbo 金氏鞏伯
Gongbo pingsheng zhenshang 鞏伯平生真賞
Gongbo (2 times) 鞏伯
Gongbei 共北
Gongbei 共北
Motu Ge 墨荼閣
Shimeihua An 石梅華庵

Zhang Xueliang 張學良 (1898–2001)
Zhang Xueliang 張學良
Zhang Xuliang yin (7 times) 張學良印
Linming Zhang shi zhencang (4 times) 臨溟張氏珍藏
Dingyuan Zhai 定遠齋
Dingyuan Zhai zhuren 定遠齋主人
Yi An 毅庵Yi An xinshang 毅庵心賞
? ? guomu 囗囗過目
Xuanping Zhai 宣平齋
Sanpei Tang 散佩堂
Jingkuan Tang 靜寬堂

Zhao Yidi 趙一荻 (1912–2000)
Xiangsheng 香笙

Yuping zhencang 雨平珍藏

See 1980.516.2a–c for the other 3 landscapes.

[1] Translations from Department records.
[2] Wang Zijin was an ancient musician famous for playing the sheng, a mouth pipe organ.
[3] As Shi Chong refused to give up Lüzhu, his favorite female entertainer, to a powerful official, the latter sent soldiers to kill Shi and seize her, whereupon Lüzhu committed suicide to show her loyalty.
[4] Wuhuai was a legendary sage king in pre-historical times.
Douglas Dillon , New York (until 1981; donated to MMA)
Krannert Art Museum and Kinkead Pavilion, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "Sacred Mountains in Chinese Art," November 9, 1990–December 16, 1990.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Sacred Mountains in Chinese Art," January 25, 1991–March 31, 1991.

Kansas City. Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. "The Century of Dong Qichang," April 19, 1992–June 14, 1992.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "The Century of Dong Qichang," July 6, 1992–September 20, 1992.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Century of Dong Qichang," October 15, 1992–January 3, 1993.

Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," April 2, 1996–July 7, 1996.

Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," August 3, 1996–November 10, 1996.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "When the Manchus Ruled China: Painting under the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)," February 2, 2002–August 18, 2002.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Dreams of Yellow Mountain: Landscapes of Survival in Seventeenth-Century China," September 13, 2003–February 22, 2004.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Secular and Sacred: Scholars, Deities, and Immortals in Chinese Art," September 10, 2005–January 8, 2006.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.

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