Merry Gatherings in the Magic Jar, Gong Kai (Chinese, 1222–after 1304), Handscroll; ink on paper, China

Merry Gatherings in the Magic Jar

Gong Kai (Chinese, 1222–after 1304)
Song dynasty (960–1279)
Handscroll; ink on paper
11 3/4 in. × 14 ft. 2 in. (29.8 × 431.8 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1924
Accession Number:
Not on view
Inscription: Translation of inscriptions:

When the scroll is opened we find a blue paper with a Chinese calligraphic writing composed of two characters, the first of which is pot, and the second is heaven.
Translation of the label at the right-hand of the picture: "Picture representing the merry gatherings in the pot heaven. Genuine painting by Gong Zuiyen (Gong Gai) of the Song dynasty" (see "A" story of the pot heaven).

At the end of the picture is the following: "The Merry-gathering in the Pot Heaven (the heaven found in the pot). The Great Garden of Beng Laishan (Everlasting Lucky Mountain) is very far away from this world, beyond the river Roshwei (the great stream which separates Mount Beng Laishan from the terrestrial world). Everything on this mountain is quite different from what it is in this world. Many peaks soar high up into the sky, and no flowers and no green trees are to be found.
There are no season, so distinction between spring and summer or autumn and winter. The buildings on the mountainside are made of stone or jade, and the strange looking winged people (Taoists) are gathered together to study the truths of the Taoistic philosophy. Their heads are old and serious; they do not know the affairs of the world, nor do they think of the beginning or end of the world. They keep their feasts in the moon or meet on the sea. And far away in the sky there is a palace.
Deep in the sea there is the Palace of the Dragon. Some people go about making merry, some sit and think of the Taoistic philosophy, some play with supernatural powers, some eat fog, some drink in the sun and transform it into the fiery fruit of the jujube tree. Here we see the twined pears, the icy peaches and snowy lotus flowers; here we find the juice and ointment of the jade which runs as a stream in all directions from the north to the south, from the east to the west. Some float their wine cups on a stream or sitting on the ledge of a precipice compare poems. Some enjoy themselves dancing or making music, some write or paint, some play the lyre or chess. Some, with steps big enough to cross rainbows, reach the roads of heaven to pick stars. Some try to catch the moon, walking across the sky and clouds. Rare birds sing in the shade of a bamboo group and the clear water flows from a fountain; some lean against a pine tree looking at a fishing boat.
Rock dew drops down on the magic plant form, sleet falls on the cliff, fog conceals the ragged walls, clouds cover the rocky peaks and the rock caves, hills stretch here and there. The eight musical notes of nature ring, and the auspicious light shines over creatures and gods. The people of this land, calling for supernatural animals, fly with them to a far away place where cold winds blow and the flower-like snowflakes hover in the sky.
In another part, warm winds scatter beautiful flowers and spread a brocade over the ground. The torrent makes beautiful gems when it runs over the rocks. In the world of changefulness, the Grand Rabbit (by which is meant the world of the moon) is hidden in a grain of millet. An in the black pot is hidden a long picture (a long day?)
The Yin (negative) and the Yang (positive) are the essential principles from which everything in the world has been created. The water meets the heat and forms the lovely clouds moving peacefully. On the other hand the pressure of the vastness of the vault is felt. The walking and sitting persons show the difference between occupation and leisure. The men here wear the rainbow skirts and feather jackets; they put the moon crowns on their heads and grass sandals on their feet. Some carry boxes, spades and pots to get mythical orchids and fungi. All the things here are quite different from the terrestrial world.
All the things are different but the essential principle of Tao (The Way) are one and the same. The unlimited and the limited are but one. The positive and negative are only two phases of the same being. We may say that life had its origin in the essential principle of Tao, and that out of the star at the South Pole is born longevity.
I, Xiao Go, the hazy one, wrote this down."

A. "Merry Gatherings in the Magic Jar"
Once upon a time there was an old magician with a pot in his hand, who was selling medicine in the market. The magician was called Hugong (Pot Gentleman). When business was over, the old magician got into his own pot. However, nobody witnessed it but only the chief official of the market street saw it, to his wonder, from an upper story of his house. The official came down and called upon the Old Pot Gentleman. The old magician took him into the pot with him. Inside the pot, there were splendid houses, excellent wines and all kinds of nice food. After drinking and eating, it is told the official, as well as the old magician came out of the pot again.
This story is recorded in the "History of Magic" in the series compiled in the later Han period.

(The story of the Magician's Pot not mentioned on the picture)
[ K. T. Wang , Shanghai, until 1924; sold to MMA]