Record of the Following One's Ancestor Studio, Zheng Yuanyou (Chinese, 1292–1364), Handscroll; ink on paper, China

元 鄭元祐 楷書師孺齋記 卷
Record of the Following One's Ancestor Studio

Zheng Yuanyou (Chinese, 1292–1364)
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
dated 1345
Handscroll; ink on paper
10 3/4 x 37 3/4 in. (27.3 x 96 cm)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 1994
Accession Number:
Not on view
This text, written when scholars living in retirement became intimately identified with their gardens or studios, is a rare fourteenth-century example of a new literary genre, the "studio memoir." But as Zheng's brief postscript makes clear, the essay was also intended to function as a letter of introduction for its recipient, an aspiring young student named Xu Huan. In the postscript, Zheng asks Xu Huan to show the scroll to a high-ranking official who might help Xu with an appointment. By adopting the form of a studio history in his essay, Zheng is able to discuss Xu Huan's illustrious family background and virtuous intentions while maintaining a tasteful and face-saving indirectness.

The elegance of Zheng Yuanyou's calligraphy reflects the refined sensibilities of both the writer and the recipient. Zheng was among the first to develop a distinctive new calligraphic style of elongated characters and exaggerated turning strokes and hooks that was based on late Han dynasty archaic models. This antiestablishment style is commonly associated with Zheng's most famous pupil, the recluse-artist Ni Zan (1306–1374), who made it synonymous with scholars living in retirement. Zheng's early use of this style suggests that it was not Ni's personal invention but a widespread cultural phenomenon expressive of the reclusive spirit of the times.
Signature: One artist's seal following Zheng's signature: Zheng Yüanyu yin.

Marking: Nine collectors' seals including one belonging to Feng Fang (1492–1563), Fengshi [Cunshu], two belonging to Ming Fa (unidentified), Ming Fa shan cang and Tengshu jianding, one belonging to an unidentified collector, Luoqin yishao yu ("through my delight in the zither I abolish melancholy"), and five belonging to Ye Gongzhuo (1881–ca. 1968). A seal purporting to belong to the early Yüan scholar Qiu Yüan (1247–after 1327), Qiandang Qiu Yüan, appears to be a spurious later addition.
[ Arnold Chang, Inc. , Forest Hills, New York, until 1994; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Text and Image: The Interaction of Painting, Poetry, and Calligraphy," January 23, 1999–August 16, 1999.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Secular and Sacred: Scholars, Deities, and Immortals in Chinese Art," September 10, 2005–January 8, 2006.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Brush and Ink: The Chinese Art of Writing," September 2, 2006–January 21, 2007.