Formerly Attributed to Ni Zan (Chinese, 1306–1374)
Li Dongyang (Chinese, 1447–1503)
Wang Da (Chinese, 14th century)
Jin Xüan (Chinese)
Wen Peng (Chinese, 1498–1573)
Wen Jia (Chinese, 1501–1583)
Zhou Tianqiu (Chinese, 1514–1595)
Huang Jishui (Chinese)
Wang Zhideng (Chinese, 1535–1612)
Dong Qichang (Chinese, 1555–1636)
Ming (1368–1644) or Qing (1644–1911) dynasty
Handscroll; color on paper
11 x 57 1/2 in. (27.9 x 146.1 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1918
Not on view
Inscription: a) At the beginning of the scroll are written four large seal characters which read: "Jiu Long shan jü" which literally means "Jiu Long (nine months) mountain residence". The large characters and writing at the left is by Li Dongyang, lecturer at the court, chief in charge of History Department.
b) At the lower right-hand of the picture is inscribed as follows: "On the 24th of March in the year of Rat, Ni Zan painted this for Yenming. On this day we were together with Ma Xiaozhang and Wang Dashan". [The Year of the Rat corresponds with the 5th year of Hongwu of the Ming period (1372)].
c) Description of the residence at Mount Jiu Long; there is a mountain called Hwei at a distance of five or six li from the north gate of Wuxi. The ridge of the mountain is undulating high and low like a winding snake. Therefore, the mountain is also called Jiu Long (nine Dragons). The mountain is not very high or steep and on its gentle slope there is a long group of pine trees which seen from afar, look so dense that one thinks it is impossible to get to the mountain. On the slope is a spring of milky water, every day hundreds of people come to get water and still the well does not dry up. The water is so sweet and cool that the tea made with this water is delicious. That is the reason why Liu Yu in his "Book of Tea" puts this well second on his list of the best waters for making tea. The beautiful scenery of the mountain has always been famous. In such beautiful surroundings, Yenming built his residence made of different buildings. He dug a pond, planted groups of bamboo and made such additions that his estate is more beautiful than nature originally made it. Green-covered mountain peaks, white clouds and many things full of poetry and leading to meditation can be seen in this estate. Thus he can forget the sordid world and get in touch with the heart of the Creator. Ages ago, Xi Lingyun wrote about the beauty of living in a mountain home; he sought but could not find it; now Yenming found such a beautiful place and we should say that it is a very good one of the kind. His father was much esteemed in his day; he also built a house on a mountain and loved to read there. Yenming, following his father's steps built a still finer house in the mountains, but he did not only want to live amidst the beauties of nature, he has a higher aim; he loves the ancient and wants to acquire learning. He wants to use his learning for the benefit of the world; therefore, this is not his permanent home. I put this down in accordance with his wish. [Composed and written by Wang Da on the 4th day of September in the 17th year of Hongwu (1384).
d) Poem by Ma Zhi: Hundreds of miles of winding ridges, Creeping plants on the rocky steeps Nobody will come here if there is no water, One might see phoenixes in the pine trees. The Mountain in the form of a dragon touches the edge of the blue water From afar people will see nothing by white clouds.
e) Poem by Zhang Xüan: I dearly love the mountain slopes and lands I pass on and come to a house Close to the window hangs the blue-colored mist, White clouds outside the screen. In autumn groups of cassia trees remain green In spring, the creepers grow as long as they wish. Here we listen in quiet to the Taoist philosphy. We listen to the song of the purple fungus.
f) Poem by Hua Yuwu: [In the summer of the year of the Rat in the Hongwu period (1387)] The sun has set, sky and river get cold. Far away we hear the cry of wild geese And far beyond I see my friend's house. It stands on the slope of the mountain. The moon cool and calm, trees here and there, Blue smoke hangs over the autumnal water Whom shall I meet, with whom shall I speak of what I feel now. I think of my friend Yünlin (Ni Zan) far away.
g) Written by Jin Xüan: During my sojourn, a man brought me a picture by Yünlin (Ni Zan). My dull eyes opened, dazzled by the beauty of the landscape. Therefore, I put down here what I feel. In the later Yuan period there were several great painters: they were Huang Zijiu, Wu Zhonggui and Wang Shuming; their paintings were beautiful and famous. But the paintings of Yünlin are refined and full of poetic feeling. Now I see here one of his very beautiful pictures.
h) Poem by Tang Yin (1470–1523): We have not seen Ni Zan for one hundred years. High trees on the mountain where he lived, And blue hazy clouds on the peak. On a beautiful day the window opens on the beautiful view. Amidst the same scene we think of the wise of the past.
i) Poem by Gu Yingxiang (d. 1566): Once before I came here on this mountain, taking with me a bottle of wine. It was spring and everything was full of life and beauty. The Dragon danced in the moonshine and the Luan bird shivered in the wind. However, the wind did not blow away the white clouds. The lake clears the smoke which man made. Yünlin painted this picture for Yenming.
j) Written by Wen Peng (1498–1573): No place can be freer than this one from the dust of the work. From the fountain the water continually flows but hides its way in the green grasses, and never runs down the mountain. Over the mountain hang fanciful white clouds and mists which look as if they are arranged as tables and stands. In such an atmosphere stands the house of the hermit of the valley.
k) Written by Wen Jia (1500–1582: A thatched house stands in the quietness of a green mountain, where trees and flowers are plentiful, and the famous spring flows. Often cranes fly over the lake and dragons pass swiftly the gate. in this place you strived for enlightenment.
l) Written by Zhou Tianqiu (1514–1595): The mountain at the side of the lake looks like nine dragons. From the window we have a beautiful view of the three peaks. Flowers are already coming out here and there on the plateau. Opening the scroll painting we see the lonesome landscape. In the valley resounds the melodious music of the running stream. But the wild creepers have closed the garden this many a year.
m) Written by Huang Jishui: The old house stands where the river winds round the mountain shrouded in mist and covered with creepers. It is indeed, a place of clouds and fountains. On the mountain slope where pines and cassia trees stand, white gulls hover. I wonder when I may walk through the garden of the house. Indeed it is the place where the hermit lived, where everything is quiet and solitary; the valleys and the vast mountains, the clouds, rocks, ferns and bamboos, together with the house, all shine in the light of the moon and the sun.
n) Written by Wang Zhideng: Flowers of hibiscus mutabilis and willow trees here and there. Charming autumn breeze on the lake, good for the fishing. A fish-eagle reminds us of the hermit who lived here. The Jiu Long (nine dragons) mountain may be seen through the window of the house. Under the clouds, at the side of the bamboo group, take up a wine cup. Among the flowers under the moonlight, I would like to compose poems in fulfillment of my long-cherished desire.
o) Zhang Boyu (Zhangyu [1277–1358]) wrote a distressing criticism on Ni Zan's painting. But here we have a masterpiece by him. This can never be surpassed even by such a master as Wangmeng. Indeed, in this work we can see his greatness as a painter. [Dong Qichang]
One poem dated 1495; one seal of Wu Zongzhou (act. early 16th century); one colophon, three seals of Wangxün; one poem, two seals of Yetong; one colophon dated 1670 of Zhuan Zhunsheng (1627–1679).
[ Vladmir G. Simkhovitch , until 1918; sold to MMA]