Returning Home, Shitao (Zhu Ruoji) (Chinese, 1642–1707), Album of twelve leaves; ink and color on paper, China

清 石濤 (朱若極) 歸棹 冊 紙本
Returning Home

Shitao (Zhu Ruoji) (Chinese, 1642–1707)
Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
ca. 1695
Album of twelve leaves; ink and color on paper
Image (each): 6 1/2 × 4 1/8 in. (16.5 × 10.5 cm)
Each leaf with painting: 8 5/16 × 5 5/16 in. (21.1 × 13.5 cm)
Each double leaf unfolded: 8 5/16 × 10 5/8 in. (21.1 × 27 cm)
Credit Line:
From the P. Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Family, Gift of Wen and Constance Fong, in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Dillon, 1976
Accession Number:
Not on view
Landscapes alternate with flowers in this album of twenty-four small leaves of paintings and poetic comments that is designed to be perused slowly, one pair of leaves at a time. Each painting and its accompanying poem were conceived as a single expressive image in a superb harmony of painting, poetry, and calligraphy. The paintings are "written" with the same type of brushstrokes as the calligraphy, while in the "painterly" calligraphy individual characters and brushstrokes in varying sizes and ink tones frequently imitate such pictorial motifs as orchid petals and leaves and misty and wavy landscape elements. Even the painter's seals are integrated into the design.

Shitao ("Stone Wave"), a scion of the Ming imperial family, became a monk and a painter after the Manchu conquest of 1644. After many years of wandering from place to place in the south and spending nearly three years in Beijing, he "returned home" to Yangzhou toward the end of 1692.
#7409. Returning Home
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Inscription: Artist’s inscriptions and signatures[1]

Leaf 1 (2 columns in standard script):

As falling leaves descend with the wind,
I return by the water through a thinning mist;
I see a tiny hut clinging to the bank of a green stream,
How soft and fat the white clouds look in the cold air.


Leaf 2 (3 columns in standard script):

First it shows one or two blossoms,
Gradually we see five or ten flowers;
In a setting sun with brilliant clouds glowing in the distance,
How the beautiful flowers compete with my brush and ink.


Leaf 3 (3 columns in semi-cursive script):

High on the mountain the beautiful colors are cold,
Where flying white clouds cease to look white.
The Daoist from Qingxiang, Ji


Leaf 4 (4 columns in standard script):

Words from a sympathetic heart are as fragrant as orchids;
Like orchids in feeling, they are agreeable and always joyous;
You should wear these orchids to protect yourself from the spring chill;
When the spring winds are cold, who can say you are safe?
Old Man of Bitter Melon, Ji


Leaf 5 (5 columns in semi-cursive/standard script):

A despondent man from Qingxiang
Passes by looking for old friends;
With no money to buy a mountain to live on,
He sleeps peacefully, pillowing his head on his own fist.
Though he has seen much, beyond many rivers and skies,
He loses his heart to the Cuncao Ting ["Inch-sized Thatched Hut"];
In a light skiff you and he toured together,
Not even a boatman was present to distract you.
The word “stop” (ting) is changed to “pass” (guo) because I was on a boat.
On leaving the river village at Baisha [near Yangzhou]. Man under the Single Branch, Ji


Leaf 6 (5 columns in semi-cursive/standard script):

Fields of flowers and leaves fill ditches full of water,
A fragrant breeze lingers by a boat gathering lotus flowers;
Phrases of a tune mixed with the sound of oars striking the water,
Stir the white clouds, setting bits of them afloat.
Sketching ideas in a boat to gather lotus seeds at the village of Baisha. The Blind Arhat, Ji


Leaf 7 (3 columns in standard script):

A wilderness hut, lonely and desolate, on a wild mountainside,
A flowerless old tree leaning over the water’s edge;
After supper, I wander here seeking quiet scenery,
How sad the sunset feels, when I am so cold and bitter.
Shitao, Ji


Leaf 8 (4 columns in standard script):

Plum blossoms in October sending forth a cold fragrance,
Are accompanied by the late-bloomer, the chrysanthemum;
Since Heaven and Earth have no special favorites,
Will the plum and the chrysanthemum blossom together again in the Spring?
One of two poems entitled “Plum Blossoms in the Ninth Lunar Month.” The Blind Arhat, Yuanji


Leaf 9 (3 columns in standard script):

New bamboo shoots grow taller than the eaves of the house,
Deep in the morning mist, a mountain peak can be seen;
May in the mountains feels like November,
Leaning on a railing, I feel the cold dew on my coat and hat.
Follower of Hinayana from Qingxiang, Ji


Leaf 10 (3 columns in semi-cursive/standard script):

In this picture I follow Li Cheng's style of branches with a new idea: I see a beautiful maiden, simple and elegant, with only a touch of cosmetics. As I try to capture her inimitable smile, I suddenly realize that I shall never entirely succeed. Ji


Leaf 11 (3 columns in clerical script):

The mountain colors are a hoary green, the trees are turning autumnal,
A yellowish mist rises thinly against a rushing stream;
In a traveler's lodge, Bitter Melon [Shitao] passes his time with a brush,
His painting method ought to put old Guanxiu [832-912] to shame.
The Blind Arhat, Yuanji


Leaf 12 (4 columns in semi-cursive/standard script):

Oh narcissus and plum blossoms, you are enjoyed together by us,
In the wintry months, the two of you compete for glory;
On a warm day by a bright window, I hold my brush,
How my quiet thoughts wander--beyond the boundless shores.
Follower of Hinayana, Ji


Artist’s seals

Shi Yuanji yin 釋元濟印 [Leaf A, B, C, E, J]
Shitao 石濤 [Leaf A, I]
Yuanji 原濟 [Leaf A, I]
Kugua Heshang Ji huafa 苦瓜和尚濟畫法 [Leaf B, H]
Yuanji 原濟 [Leaf C, D, E, F, G, J, K, L]
Shitao 石濤 [Leaf C, D, E, F, G, J, K, L]
Qian you Longmian Ji 前有龍眠濟 [Leaf D, G]
Toubai yiran bu shizi 頭白依然不識字 [Leaf G, H, L]
Kugua Heshang 苦瓜和尚 [Leaf K]

Title strip

Kuwana Tetsujō 鐵城桑箕 (1864–1938), 1 column in standard script, undated [on the lid of wooden box]:

苦瓜龢尚書畫冊 鐵城題。

Label strips

1. Tomioka Tessai 富岡鐡齋 (1836–1924), 1 column in standard script, undated; 1 seal:

石濤和尚畫帖 [印]: 錬

2. Kuwana Tetsujō 鐵城桑箕(1864–1938), 1 column in semi-cursive script, undated:

石濤道人書畫神品 [印]: 鐡城藏記


1. Kuwana Tetsujō 鐵城桑箕 (1864–1938), 6 columns in semi-cursive script, dated 1914; 2 seals [on the inside of the lid of wooden box]:

石濤和尚書畫冊,鑒古者以為希世之逸品,所謂絕無而罕存者。予曩得之,珍襲久焉。今耕雪光醒一見,欣賞不措,因割愛貽之。時甲寅五月,鐵城桑箕記。[印]: 星昆、希囗

2. Tomioka Tessai富岡鐡齋 (1837–1924), 23 columns in semi-cursive/standard script, undated; 1 seal:

I have read a few commentaries on painting in Zheng Banqiao’s [Zheng Xie, 1693-1765] collected writings that read: “Shitao, who excelled in painting, was able to paint in a myriad of different ways; orchids and bamboo were easy for him. I, Banqiao, can paint only orchids and bamboo. I am over fifty of age, and I paint nothing else. If he [Shitao] concentrated on being broad, then I have concentrated on being specialized. And who can say that one is better than the other? Shitao’s painting methods have thousands and tens of thousands of transformations; they can be extraordinarily hoary and ancient, and yet delicate and smooth. Compared to the works of Bada Shanren, they show only strengths rather than weaknesses. Today, however, Bada’s reputation fills the nation, while Shitao is known only in our Yangzhou prefecture. Why is this so? It is because while Bada uses only one type of reduced brushwork, Shitao’s paintings, by comparison, seem too detailed and luxuriant. Furthermore, Bada is not known by other names; so he is easily remembered. Shitao, on the other hand, is known not only as Hongji, but also as Qingxiang Daoren, as Kugua Heshang, as Dadizi, and as Xia Zunzhe. When too many sobriquets are used, they become confusing. Bada is only Bada. Likewise, I, Banqiao, am always Banqiao. So, on this account alone, I regret I shall not be following Master Shi[tao].”[2] Tessai transcribed this for the appreciation of the worthy Kuwana.

余嘗讀鄭板橋集中有題畫小文數則曰:“石濤譱畫,蓋有萬種,蘭竹其餘事。板橋專畫蘭竹,五十餘年不畫他物。彼務博,我務專,安見專之不如博乎!石濤畫灋千變萬化,離奇蒼古,而又能細秀妥貼,比之八大山人殆有過之,無不及處。然八大名滿天下,石濤名不出吾揚州,何哉?八大能純用減筆,而石濤茸耳。且八大無二名,人易記識;石濤弘濟又曰清湘道人,又曰苦瓜和尚,又曰大滌子,又曰瞎尊者,別號太多,翻成攪亂。八大只是八大,板橋亦只是板橋,吾不能從石公矣。”鐡城賢契,鐡齋外史錄。 [印]: 錬

3. Cheng Qi 程琦(1911–ca. 1988), 4 columns in standard script, dated 1958; 2 seals:

清湘老人山水花卉十二幀,皆有對題,元氣磅礴,天趣縱橫,脫盡畫家蹊徑,頗具超塵之想。按傅抱石《石濤上人年譜》謂此冊寫於康熙三十四年乙亥,上人時年六十有六,尤爲精詣之作也。戊戌蕤賓伯奮識於海東寓居。 [印]: [二印不辨]

Collectors’ seals

Kuwana Tetsujō 鐵城桑箕 (1864–1938)
Tiecheng Sang shi zhencang jinshi shuhua zhi ji 鐵城桑氏珍藏金石書畫之記
Tiecheng zhencang 鐵城珍藏
Tiecheng cang ji 鐵城藏記
Xishi zhi zhen 希世之珍

Cheng Qi程琦 (1911–ca. 1988)
Gu She Cheng shi zhencang 古歙程氏珍藏
Cheng Ke An shuhua ji 程可菴書畫記

[1] Translations of the poems are from Wen Fong, Returning Home: Tao-chi's Album of Landscapes and Flowers, New York: G. Braziller, 1976, pp. 36, 40, 44, 48, 52, 56, 60, 64, 68, 72, 76, 80.
[2] Translation from ibid., p. 85. The Romanization of Chinese characters has been changed from Wade-Giles to pinyin.
Mr. and Mrs. Wen C. Fong , New York (until 1976; donated to MMA)
Ann Arbor. University of Michigan Museum of Art. "The Painting of Daoji ca. 1641–1720," August 13, 1967–September 17, 1967.

National Museum of History, Taipei. "Overseas Collections of the Art of Bada Shanren and Shitao," February 1, 1984–March 11, 1984.

Tainan Culture Center. "Overseas Collections of the Art of Bada Shanren and Shitao," March 15, 1984–March 31, 1984.

Zurich. Museum Rietberg. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," April 2, 1996–July 7, 1996.

Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. "The Mandate of Heaven: Emperors and Artists in China," August 3, 1996–November 10, 1996.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The New Chinese Galleries: An Inaugural Installation," 1997.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "When the Manchus Ruled China: Painting under the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911)," February 2, 2002–August 18, 2002.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Journeys: Mapping the Earth and Mind in Chinese Art," February 10, 2007–August 26, 2007.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Art of the Chinese Album," September 6, 2014–March 29, 2015.