Wang Xizhi watching geese

Artist: Qian Xuan (Chinese, ca. 1235–before 1307)

Period: Yuan dynasty (1271–1368)

Date: ca. 1295

Culture: China

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)

Classification: Paintings

Credit Line: Ex coll.: C. C. Wang Family, Gift of The Dillon Fund, 1973

Accession Number: 1973.120.6


After the fall of Hangzhou, the Southern Song capital, in 1276, the artist Qian Xuan chose to live as an yimin, a “leftover subject” of the dynasty. Painted in his deliberately primitive “blue-and-green” style, this handscroll illustrates the story of Wang Xizhi (  303 – 361), the calligraphy master of legendary fame and a practitioner of Daoist alchemy, who was said to derive inspiration from natural forms such as the graceful neck movements of geese. In creating a dreamlike evocation of antiquity, the artist prevented a realistic reading of his picture space as a way of asserting the disjuncture he felt after the fall of the Song royal house.