This painting invites the viewer to follow a mountain path across a stone arch and into a magical realm where herb gatherers dressed in garments of leaves and grass mingle with robed gentlemen engaged in scholarly pleasures: viewing paintings, playing weiqi (go, in Japanese), strumming a zither, composing poetry, engaging in "pure conversation," and contemplating the scenery. The scroll ends with an imposing terrace for viewing the sky and a cave-an entrance to a Daoist grotto-heaven. Based on the two-character signature at the left edge of the scroll, the painting has been identified as the work of Shen Xiyuan, a late fourteenth-century practitioner of the Southern Song academic tradition of Ma Yuan (active ca. 1190–1225). But many of the figural and landscape details reflect the styles of such mid-sixteenth-century artists as Zhou Chen and Qiu Ying, suggesting that a more appropriate date for the scroll would be the later sixteenth or early seventeenth century.
Inscription: Artist’s signature (1 column in standard script):
Wang Dao 王道 (1825–after 1887), 3 large characters followed by 14 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1866; 4 seals: