Planting Chrysanthemums

Artist: Lu Zhi (Chinese, 1495–1576)

Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

Date: mid-16th century

Culture: China

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink and pale color on paper

Dimensions: Image: 42 x 10 3/4 in. (106.7 x 27.3 cm)
Overall with mounting: 107 1/4 x 19 in. (272.4 x 48.3 cm)
Overall with knobs: 107 1/4 x 22 1/2 in. (272.4 x 57.2 cm)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Edward Elliott Family Collection, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1986

Accession Number: 1986.266.3


Lu Zhi presented Planting Chrysanthemums to his friend Tao in exchange for rare cuttings. To express his ideal of reclusion, Lu combined poetry with painting:

I hear you have opened up a “Tao path” near the ocean,
Where clouds of leaves and frost-covered flowers vie in
wondrous splendor.
I too have built a new residence at Zhixing Mountain,
May I share some of your autumn colors on my
eastern hedge?

The first two lines of Lu’s verse allude to “Peach Blossom Spring,” a famous poem by his friend’s namesake Tao Qian (365–427) in which a fisherman stumbles upon a hidden Utopia. In the last two lines, Lu suggests that he has planned his own Utopian retreat and refers to the growing of chrysanthemums, a passion he shared with Tao Qian.

Lu was the son of a Suzhou schoolteacher and a pupil of Wen Zhengming (1470–1559). After his father’s death, Lu supported his family by selling his paintings. About 1557 he retired to the mountains west of Suzhou, where he led a reclusive life cultivating rare flowers, poetry, and painting. Awash in mist and soft colors, the crystalline mountains in Lu’s painting perfectly evoke the dreamlike Peach Blossom Land of the immortals.