Bamboo, old tree, and rock, Wu Zhen (Chinese, 1280–1354), Hanging scroll; ink on silk, China

元 吳鎮 高節凌雲圖 軸
Bamboo, old tree, and rock

Wu Zhen (Chinese, 1280–1354)
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
dated 1338
Hanging scroll; ink on silk
Image: 65 5/8 x 38 1/2 in. (166.7 x 97.8 cm)
Overall with mounting: 117 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. (298.5 x 100.3 cm)
Overall with knobs: 117 1/2 x 43 7/8 in. (298.5 x 111.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of Oscar L. Tang Family, 2012
Accession Number:
Not on view
This painting shows Wu Zhen's creative adaptation of the "old tree, bamboo, and rock" genre first canonized by eleventh-century scholar-artists. The painting's large scale and use of overlapping forms and graded ink tones to create an illusion of recession, and of rich, wet ink to evoke the appearance of foliage after a drenching rain, recall the descriptive naturalism of Song-dynasty precedents. But Wu tempered this naturalistic approach with a new calligraphic assertiveness inspired by the work of Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322). Bamboo leaves have been reduced to a calligraphic formula of repeating, pattern-like clusters, and the texture strokes and foliage dots used to describe rock surfaces have become emphatic mannerisms derived from the tenth-century masters Dong Yuan and Juran.

In his later years, Wu Zhen specialized in bamboo painting, but even here, in his earliest extant depiction of bamboo, the artist's admiration for this plant is evident, particularly in his poetic inscription:

Tall stalks pierce the clouds.
Perhaps you find it strange,
Not recognizing the wings of a phoenix.
A pure sound enters the realm of the soundless,
Do not let Zhonglang blow his long-necked flute.
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (4 columns in cursive script)


Artist’s seals

Meihua An 梅華盦
Jiaxing Wu Zhen Zhonggui shuhua ji 嘉興吳鎮仲圭書畫記

Label strip

Zhao Shigang 趙時棡 (1874–1945), 1 column in clerical script and 2 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1939; 1 seal:

元吳仲圭 《古木竹石》 真蹟
已卯秋月趙時棡署。 [印]: 叔孺

Collectors’ seals

Liang Qingbiao 梁清標 (1620–1691)

Qian Yue 錢樾 (1743–1815)

Wang Jiqian 王季遷 (C. C. Wang, 1907–2003)

Illegible 1

Oscar L. Tang Family , New York (until 2012; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The New Chinese Galleries: An Inaugural Installation," 1997.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Artist as Collector: Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the C.C.Wang Family Collection," September 2, 1999–January 9, 2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The World of Scholars' Rocks: Gardens, Studios, and Paintings," February 1, 2000–August 20, 2000.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Art of the Brush: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy," March 12, 2005–August 14, 2005.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Bridging East and West: The Chinese Diaspora and Lin Yutang," September 15, 2007–February 10, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Landscapes Clear and Radiant: The Art of Wang Hui (1632–1717)," September 9, 2008–January 4, 2009.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change," August 21, 2010–January 9, 2011.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from the Metropolitan Collection II," May 7, 2016–October 11, 2016.