Zhang Yucai, the thirty-eighth pope of the Zhengyi ("Orthodox Unity") Daoist church, lived at Mount Longhu (Dragon Tiger Mountain) in Jiangxi Province. A favorite of the Yuan emperors, he received commendation from the Mongol court for inducing needed rain and for subduing a "tide monster" that had plagued the eastern seacoast.
Dragons, as symbols of nature's elemental forces, have been depicted in Chinese art from time immemorial. A special genre, dragon paintings were given powerful treatment by such Southern Song masters as Chen Rong (act. ca. 1235-62) and the Chan Buddhist painter Muqi (act. ca. 1240-75). In a fourteenth-century account, Chen's working methods are described as follows: He "makes clouds by splashing ink, creates vapor by spraying water, and, while drunk, shouting loudly, takes off his cap, soaks it in ink, and smears and rubs with it, before finishing the painting with a brush."
On Chen Rong's celebrated Nine Dragons handscroll dated 1244, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, there is a colophon dated 1331 by Zhang Yucai's son Zhang Sicheng, the thirty-ninth Daoist pope (r. 1317–44). Beneficent Rain is closely related to Chen Rong's Nine Dragons both in content and in style, and may have been directly inspired by the Boston scroll or others like it.
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元 張羽材 霖雨圖 卷
Artist:Zhang Yucai (Chinese, died 1316)
Period:Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Date:early 14th century
Medium:Handscroll; ink on silk
Dimensions:Image: 10 9/16 x 107 in. (26.8 x 271.8 cm) Overall with mounting: 11 in. x 24 ft. 11 13/16 in. (27.9 x 753.9 cm)
Credit Line:Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1985
Inscription: Artist’s inscription and signature (3 columns in standard script)
Beneficent Rain Painted by Weishan, Guangweizi, Zhang Yucai.
1. Yongxing 永瑆 (1752–1823), 6 columns in standard script, dated 1816:
Qian Weishan (active mid-14th c.) included in his personal anthology, Jiangyue songfeng ji, a poem inscribed on Ascending Dragon painted by Celestial Master Guangwei [Zhang Yucai], which reads: Breathing the air, riding the clouds, it reaches to the sky. The ink master works magic; his inkstone smacks of aquatic creatures. The waves shine, as the pair of swords submerge; The storm darkens, as the six goddesses [of thunder and lightening] are dispatched. Flames of fire dart skywards; Green scales dive in, raising turbulence in the vast sea. The man of perfect cultivation, carried up along the way, turns immortal; How can I cling to [the dragon’s] whiskers to cross the Dongting [Lake]? Recorded by Prince Cheng [Yongxing] on the fifth of the second lunar month in the bingzi year of the Jiaqing reign era [March 3, 1816].
Unidentified Shuju Laoren Han Song shu yin 蔬菊老人韓松書印
 Translation from Department records.
Douglas Dillon American, New York (until 1985; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Great Waves: Chinese Themes in the Arts of Korea and Japan I," March 1–September 21, 2003.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Painting, Masterpieces from the Permanent Collection," August 28, 2004–February 20, 2005.
Cincinnati Art Museum. "Decoded Messages: The Symbolic Language of Chinese Animal Painting," October 9, 2009–January 3, 2010.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty," September 28, 2010–January 2, 2011.
Shanghai Museum. "Masterpieces of Chinese Tang, Song and Yuan Paintings from America," November 3, 2012–January 3, 2013.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Chinese Painting from The Met Collection (Rotation One)," October 31, 2015–October 11, 2016.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Another World Lies Beyond: Chinese Art and the Divine," August 24, 2019–January 5, 2020.
Cahill, James. An Index of Early Chinese Painters and Paintings: T'ang, Sung, and Yüan. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980.
Morris, Edwin T. The Gardens of China: History, Art and Meanings. New York: Scribner, 1983, p. 32.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Asia. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, p. 88, pl. 53.
Fong, Wen C. Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 8th–14th Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, pp. 362–65, pls. 81a, b.
Lu Xinyuan 陸心源. Rangli Guan guoyan xulu 穰梨舘過眼續錄 (Sequel to the catalogue of art works seen at the Rangli Guan Studio). Dated 1892. 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. 13, p. 279.
Yang Zhenguo 杨振国. Haiwai cang Zhongguo lidai ming hua: Liao, Jin, Xixia, Yuan 海外藏中国历代名画: 辽, 金, 西夏, 元 (Famous paintings of successive periods in overseas collections) Edited by Lin Shuzhong 林树中. vol. 4, Changsha: Hunan meishu chubanshe, 1998, p. 220, pl. 134.
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