Returning Home

Artist: Shitao (Zhu Ruoji) (Chinese, 1642–1707)

Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)

Date: ca. 1695

Culture: China

Medium: Album of twelve leaves; ink and color on paper

Dimensions: 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)

Classification: Paintings

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: 1976.280a–n


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.