Dragon Pine

Artist: Wu Boli (Chinese, active late 14th–early 15th century)

Period: Ming dynasty (1368–1644)

Date: ca. 1400

Culture: China

Medium: Hanging scroll; ink on paper

Dimensions: 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)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Edward Elliott Family Collection, Gift of Douglas Dillon, 1984

Accession Number: 1984.475.3

Description

Wu Boli, a Daoist priest at the Shangqing ("Upper Purity") Temple of Mount Longhu (Dragon Tiger Mountain), Jiangxi Province, was a close follower of Fang Congyi (ca. 1301–ca. 1392). Dragon Pine was painted for Zhang Yuchu, the forty-third Daoist pope of the Orthodox Unity sect, and bears his appreciative colophon.

This animated pine recalls an account by the tenth-century hermit painter Jing Hao in which he describes "a gigantic pine tree, its aged bark overgrown with lichen, its winged scales seeming to ride in the air. Its stature is like that of a coiling dragon trying to reach the Milky Way." For Jing Hao, as for later artists, the pine tree signified "the moral character of the virtuous man." Here, the pine tree may also represent the Daoist sage, or "perfected being." According to Daoist geomantic beliefs, 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.

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