Dragon Pine, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), ca. 1400
Wu Boli (Chinese, active late 14th–early 15th century)
Hanging scroll; ink on paper; Image 48 x 13 1/4 in. (121.9 x 33.7 cm), Overall with mounting 100 x 18 5/8 in. (254 x 47.3 cm), Overall with knobs 100 x 21 in. (254 x 53.3 cm)
Edward Elliott Family Collection, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1984 (1984.475.3)
Wu Boli, a Daoist adept at the Upper Purity Temple of Mount Longhu (Dragon Tiger Mountain), Jiangxi Province, was a close follower of Fang Congyi (ca. 1301–after 1378). Dragon Pine was painted for Zhang Yuchu (1361–1410), the forty-third Celestial Master of the Zhengyi (Orthodox Unity) order, and bears his appreciative colophon.
Pine trees, because they remain green through the winter, are metaphors for survival, longevity, and the moral character of the virtuous man. In Wu Boli's painting, the tree may also represent the Daoist sage, or "perfected being." With their twisting trunks, lichen-studded bark, and exposed roots, such trees recall the coiled body, powerful talons, and bristling scales of a dragon—the embodiment of natural forces that Daoist masters seek to channel. According to Daoist geomantic beliefs (fengshui), vital energies collect at the base of a mountain slope along the edge of a stream—precisely the location of the pine in Wu Boli's painting.