Long landscape handscrolls often show travelers on the move. These tiny figures guide us through the world depicted on the scroll, humanizing it and focusing our attention. In the opening section of this painting, a man in a skiff puts a bamboo flute to his lips, inspired by the scenery. On the far shore, an old man walks to a thatched hut with the aid of a walking stick. Further in, a wood gatherer drives his mule train along a plank road into the mountains. At the end, a scene of repose: a lone boatman huddles in his skiff, pole tucked under his shivering arm, waiting for travelers to ferry to the distant shore. These journeys mirror our own as we discover the landscape through the process of unrolling the scroll.
This painting boasts an impressive suite of colophons by fourteenth-century writers, including two renowned scholar-painters, Ni Zan and Lu Guang. Though the painting itself bears a signature of the tenth- to eleventh-century painter Yan Wengui, it appears to be a copy from the fourteenth century, the time of Ni and Lu. Therefore, it is possible that these colophons were originally made for another painting but later mounted to this work to enhance its value.
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元/明 佚名 舊傳 燕文貴 秋山蕭寺圖 軸
Title:Buddhist Temples amid Autumn Mountains
Artist: After Yan Wengui (Chinese, 970–1030)
Period:Yuan (1271–1368)–Ming (1368–1644) dynasty
Medium:Handscroll; ink and pale color on silk
Dimensions:Image: 12 7/8 in. × 10 ft. 6 1/2 in. (32.7 × 321.3 cm) Overall with mounting: 13 1/8 in. × 37 ft. 2 1/8 in. (33.3 × 1133.2 cm)
Credit Line:Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1983
Inscription: Artist's inscription and signature (1 column in standard script)
Painted by Yan Wengui.
Other inscription on painting
Qing emperor Qianlong 清帝乾隆 (1711–1799, r. 1736–95), 12 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1771; 1 seal:
[ Tingchen Zhang , Hong Kong, until 1983; sold to MMA]
Princeton University Art Museum. "Images of the Mind: Selections from the Edward L. Elliot Family and John B. Elliott Collections of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting at the Art Museum, Princeton University," April 15–June 17, 1984.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Images of the Mind: Selections from the Edward L. Elliot Family and John B. Elliott Collections of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting at the Art Museum, Princeton University," September 18, 1987–January 10, 1988.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Traditional Scholarly Values at the End of the Qing Dynasty: The Collection of Weng Tonghe (1830–1904)," June 30–January 3, 1999.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "A Millennium of Chinese Painting: Masterpieces from the Permanent Collection," September 8, 2001–January 13, 2002.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Douglas Dillon Legacy: Chinese Painting for the Metropolitan Museum," March 12–August 8, 2004.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Four Seasons," January 28–August 13, 2006.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Journeys: Mapping the Earth and Mind in Chinese Art," February 10–August 26, 2007.
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. "Streams and Mountains without End: Landscape Traditions of China," August 26, 2017–January 6, 2019.
Midian zhulin shiqu baoji sanbian 秘殿珠林石渠寶笈三編 (Catalogue of painting and calligraphy in the Qianlong imperial collection, third series). Preface dated 1816. Facsimile reprinted of an original manuscript copy. 10 vols. vol. 7, Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1969, p. 3302.
Cahill, James. An Index of Early Chinese Painters and Paintings: T'ang, Sung, and Yüan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
Fong, Wen C. et al. Images of the Mind: Selections from the Edward L. Elliott Family and John B. Elliott Collections of Chinese Calligraphy and Painting at the Art Museum, Princeton University. Exh. cat. Princeton, N.J.: Art Museum, Princeton University in association with Princeton University Press, 1984, pp. 66–67, figs. 64, 64a.
Fong, Wen C. Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th–14th Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, pp. 114–15, pl. 15.
Bian Yongyu 卞永譽. Shigu Tang shuhua huikao 式古堂書畫彙考 (Studies of calligraphy and painting from the Shigu Tang Studio). Preface dated 1682, juan 44 of painting section. Reprinted in Zhongguo shuhua quanshu 中國書畫全書 (Compendium of classical publications on Chi ptg. & calligr.) Edited by Lu Fusheng 盧輔聖. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1993–2000, vol. 2, pp. 696–99.
Zhang Chou 張丑. Qinghe shuhua fang 清河書畫舫 (Painting and calligraphy barge at Qinghe). Preface dated 1616, juan 7. Reprinted in Zhongguo shuhua quanshu 中國書畫全書 (Compendium of classical publications on Chinese painting and calligraphy) Edited by Lu Fusheng 盧輔聖. Shanghai: Shanghai shuhua chubanshe, 1993–2000, vol. 4, pp. 265–66.
Törmä, Minna. Landscape Experience as Visual Narrative: Northern Song Dynasty Landscape Handscrolls in the Li Cheng–Yan Wengui Tradition. Helsinki: Academia Scientiarum Fennica, 2002, p. 107, fig. 6.
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