Artist: Qian Xuan (Chinese, ca. 1235–before 1307)
Period: Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)
Date: ca. 1295
Medium: Handscroll; ink, color, and gold on paper
Dimensions: Image: 9 1/8 x 36 1/2 in. (23.2 x 92.7 cm)
Overall with mounting: 11 x 418 13/16 in. (27.9 x 1063.8 cm)
Credit Line: Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973
Accession Number: 1973.120.6
After the fall of the Southern Song capital in 1276 (1279?), Qian Xuan chose to live as a yimin, a "leftover citizen" of the Song dynasty. Using his richly archaistic "blue-and-green" painting style, the artist deliberately employed a primitive manner to allude to a lost immortal's realm that could be achieved only through a regimen of "internal alchemy."
Watching Geese illustrates the story of Wang Xizhi (ca. 303–ca. 361), a calligraphy master of legendary fame and a practitioner of Daoist alchemy who was said to derive inspiration from natural forms, such as the graceful necks of geese. The artist's poem reads:
How pleasant are the elegant bamboo and trees!
In a peaceful pavilion, relaxing with bare stomach, how wonderful it must feel!
Writing the Daodejing [The Way and Its Power] for a Daoist friend,
He leaves behind a romantic image–a man who loves geese.