Poem Written in a Boat on the Wu River

Calligrapher Mi Fu Chinese

Not on view

Sun Guoting's Manual on Calligraphy (687) states that calligraphy reveals the character and emotions of the writer. Few works demonstrate this principle as clearly as this handscroll by Mi Fu, the leading calligrapher of late Northern Song. Mi wrote Sailing on the Wu River with a suspended arm, working from the elbow rather than the wrist. It was not his aim to form perfect characters; instead, he entrusted his writing to the force of the brush, giving free reign to idiosyncratic movements, collapsing and distorting the characters for the sake of expressiveness. Su Shi (1036–1101) likened Mi's writing to "a sailboat in a gust of wind, or a warhorse charging into battle." Traditionally, calligraphy has been more highly esteemed in China than painting. In the 1950s when John Crawford began collecting it, most American scholars were unaware of its importance and the authenticity of many Crawford pieces was questioned. Today, these works are regarded as national treasures and the Metropolitan is the only leading museum in the West able to present major examples of this quintessential Chinese art form.

#7455. Poem Written in a Boat on the Wu River

Poem Written in a Boat on the Wu River, Mi Fu (Chinese, 1051–1107), Handscroll; ink on paper, 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.