Outing to Zhang Gong's Grotto, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), ca. 1700
Shitao (Zhu Ruoji) (Chinese, 1642–1707)
Handscroll; ink and color on paper; Image 18 1/16 x 112 3/4 in. (45.9 x 286.4 cm); Overall with mounting 18 7/16 x 363 11/16 in. (46.8 x 923.8 cm)
Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1982 (1982.126)
In this colorful handscroll, Shitao depicts a grotto heaven (dongtian) located beside Lake Tai near Yixing, Jiangsu Province, that is named for the first Celestial Master, Zhang Daoling (died 156 A.D.). In Shitao's rendering, the mysteriously luminous cave with its stalactites appears like a magical portal to a Daoist paradise. According to Daoist beliefs, such grottos are wellsprings of nature's creative force and offer the potential for rejuvenation and renewal.
In a long poem added at the end of the scroll, Shitao acknowledges the mystical Daoist attributes of the cave and playfully suggests that through his art he has captured both the cave and its creative force.