Art/ Collection/ Art Object

元 佚名 對月圖 軸
Monk Reading a Sutra by Moonlight

Unidentified Artist
Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
ca. 1332
Hanging scroll; ink on paper
Image: 29 3/8 x 13 in. (74.6 x 33 cm) Overall with mounting: 59 x 13 5/8 in. (149.9 x 34.6 cm) Overall with knobs: 59 x 15 1/2 in. (149.9 x 39.4 cm)
Credit Line:
Edward Elliott Family Collection, Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1982
Accession Number:
Not on view
Paintings of monks reading sutras by moonlight reflect the Chan, or Zen, emphasis on remaining forever mindful, even during daily activities, in order to achieve enlightenment. Here, an elderly cleric with scraggly hair and a sparse beard sits in a remote landscape, reading a sutra. He holds the text in his left hand and twirls one of his long eyebrows with his right. The delicate rendering of the face is complemented by the thick, dark brushstrokes in his clothing. The poem, composed and written by the monk Yuxi Simin (active 14th century), reads:

Just this one fascicle of sutra,
The words are often difficult to make out.
When the sun comes up, the moon also sets,
When will I finish reading it?
Inscription: Artist's seal (spurious)

Muxi 牧谿


Yuxi Simin 玉谿思珉 (d. 1337), 5 columns in semi-cursive script, undated; 1 seal:

In this one volume of sutra,
The words have no clear meaning.
The sun rises, the moon sets,
When will I finish reading it? [1]
Inscribed by Simin of the Baofu [Temple]. [Seal]: Yuxi

保福思珉讚。 [印]:玉谿

[1] Trans. from Wen C. Fong, Beyond Representation: Chinese Painting and Calligraphy 8th–14th Century. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992, p. 361.
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