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)
Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1985
Not on view
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.
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].