Flowers, fish, and crabs

Liu Jie Chinese

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 210

This painting by the court master Liu Jie juxtaposes a large perch with many smaller fish and a variety of flora and fauna, including narcissus in bloom, lily pads, grasses, grain, a crab, and frogs. The effect is one of civilized tranquility in which the large fish, symbolizing a person of obvious stature, swims quietly along a peaceful riverbank. Both the fish and grain symbolize wealth, and the overall impact of the image is suggestive of abundance and reward. Some pictorial elements—perch, grain, and crab—also create a visual pun with a homophonous wish for “peace and harmony in the entire palace,” which makes it clear that this picture was intended for the emperor.

Liu Jie’s formal signature, which gives his title as Commander in the Embroidered Uniform Guard, on Appointment to the Wenhua Palace, confirms that this was an imperial commission. The Wenhua Palace was one of the halls in the Forbidden City at which court painters served. Liu’s rank of commander was very near the highest to which a painter could aspire. Both Liu’s grandfather and father had also held this title as court artists, and Liu Jie would have been entitled to inherit this rank after his father’s death, which apparently occurred only a few years after Liu received his first court title in 1477.

#7624. Perch, Grain, and Crab

Flowers, fish, and crabs, Liu Jie (Chinese, active mid-16th century), Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk, China

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.