The Poetry Cottage, Lin Shu (Chinese, 1852–1924), Handscroll; ink on paper, China

近代 林紓 詩廬圖 卷
The Poetry Cottage

Lin Shu (Chinese, 1852–1924)
dated 1914
Handscroll; ink on paper
Image: 8 7/8 x 39 in. (22.5 x 99.1 cm)
Overall with mounting: 11 x 320 3/8 in. (27.9 x 813.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth, in memory of La Ferne Hatfield Ellsworth, 1986
Accession Number:
Not on view
This painting of a cottage hidden among bamboo conveys the longings of the yimin (literally, leftover subjects) of the Qing for another time and place.

Lin had a Confucian education, obtaining a juren degree in 1882. His landscape style was based on Wen Zhenming and Daoji. Lin Shu's style was so popular that his studio was called "The Mint." In 1919 he was an outspoken critic of the "new culture" movement which called for use of the vernacular instead of the classical language in literature. At the same time, Lin Shu was among the first to make Western literature available in China. Although he knew no English, he rendered into classical Chinese several Western novels as recounted to him by a French missionary.
Signature: Lin Shu
Dated the 18th day of the first month of 1914

Artist's seals: 1. Weiluo (square, red characters)
2. Lin Shu's personal seal (square, white characters)

Artist's inscription: A colophon follows [the Cottage Picture]. The cottage described in this note is the cottage of Mr. Hu in Peking. The cottage depicted in the painting is the one Mr. Hu dreams of having.

Artist's colophon: Notes on the Poetry Cottage
Hu Zifan, my friend from Xijiang came to Peking as an official. He has a sign for his house calling it Shi Luo [Poetry Cottage]. He is so poor that he could not afford to buy a house; he just rents a place to live. Oh, the people who live as aliens in Peking, all are survivors of upheaval. Why use "rent" only for houses? Their lives are rented. On leisure days I hang the works done by distinguished people on my four walls, as though in Mr. Hu's house. My house is also Poetry Studio.
Today there are even more poets than in the late Ming Dynast. But those I really admire are only Hu's fellow villager, Chen Boyan and my hometown fellows, Chen Zhusou and Taiyi. All the people I associate with are either Hu's teachers or friends. Hu benefited from his circle in his study of poetry.
As to the three gentlemen, Boyan studied Zhenyao [Meng Jiao, 751–814] and got his spirit and bone. Taiyi learned from Meng [Jiao] in the beginning and later moved on to Tao [Tao Yuanming]. Recently he has followed Shangu [Huang Tingjian, 1045–1105] and Linchuan [Yan Shu, 991–1055]. His poetry has Song bone and Tang face. Only Jusou's poems have far-reaching ideas and are pure, but not thin and bony, but with cream, full of power, grandeur and solemn, stirring sound. They are really ancient yimin poems. Mr. Hu admired these three men and studied every day to approach their level. If there is anyone who can surpass Boyan, it will be Hu. Hu is now just in his thirties. He is also proficient in English and navigation. He hides his talents but enjoys himself in poetry. Along with admiring the three gentlemen, Hu also respects me and asked me both to write an essay on his cottage and to do a painting. At year's end, I still hadn't done a painting. I first wrote this essay.

The first month of 1914
Lin Shu wrote this at Chunjue Studio.

Marking: Collectors' seals: Robert Hatfield Ellsworth
Robert H. Ellsworth , New York (until 1986; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Painting: Selections from the Robert H. Ellsworth Collection," February 2, 1988–September 25, 1988.