Zha Shibiao, an Anhui native, was descended from a family with a sizable collection of antiquities, including Song and Yuan paintings. Uninterested in civil service, he supported himself through painting and calligraphy while traveling in the lower Yangzi region before settling down in Yangzhou by the late 1660s.
Early exposure to a broad range of painting models enabled Zha to break free of the stylistic dominance of Hongren (1610–1664), with whom he was personally acquainted. Here, Zha evokes the exquisite simplicity of Hongren’s principal model, Ni Zan (1306–1374). Adopting Ni’s typical composition—a wide river separating foreground trees from distant mountains—Zha’s addition of rich vegetation and a human figure transforms Ni’s austere style, creating an inviting environment for reclusion as described in Zha’s poetic inscription.