Nymph of the Luo River

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Artist: Traditionally attributed to Gu Kaizhi (傳)顧愷之 (ca. 344-ca. 406)
Colophon: Colophon by Dong Qichang 董其昌 (1555-1636)
Historical period(s)
Southern Song dynasty, mid-12th to mid-13th century
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 24.2 x 310.9 cm (9 1/2 x 122 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view


China, river, Southern Song dynasty (1127 - 1279)

Li Lung-mien [1]

Duanfang (1861-1911) [2]

To 1914
Dr. John Calvin Ferguson (1866-1945), Beijing, to 1914 [3]

From 1914 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Dr. John C. Ferguson in 1914 [4]

From 1920
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [5]


[1] See Curatorial Remark 3, Ma Soo, 1917, in the object record. This object exhibits seals, colophons, or inscriptions that could provide additional information regarding the object’s history; see Curatorial Remarks in the object record for further details.

[2] See Curatorial Remark 9, James F. Cahill, 1958, in the object record. According to Ingrid Larsen, "'Don’t Send Ming or Later Pictures': Charles Lang Freer and the First Major Collection of Chinese Painting in an American Museum," Ars Orientalis vol. 40 (2011), pgs. 19-20, "Ferguson became a Chinese art scholar and dealer who helped Freer acquire perhaps the most famous painting in Duanfang's collection, Nymph of the Luo River..."

[3] See Original Kakemono and Makimono List, L. 832, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[4] See note 1.

[5] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Duanfang 1861-1911
John Calvin Ferguson (C.L. Freer source) 1866-1945


This handscroll illustrates a long rhapsody, or prose-poem (fu), written in 222 C.E. by the poet and prince Cao Zhi (192-232 C.E.), in which he describes his romantic encounter with the nymph, or goddess, of the Luo River in central China. Slightly less than half the work's original length, this scroll is one of the three important Song copies--the other two are in China in the Palace Museum, Beijing, and the Liaoning Provincial Museum--of an original composition traditionally attributed to the fourth-century pioneering figure Gu Kaizhi.
In this narrative scroll, figures are disproportionately large in relation to the landscape in which stylized elements are little more than stages set for various plots, and represent the beginning in the development of Chinese landscape painting. In this section, the goddess mounts her dragon-drawn chariot and departs over the waves, attended by a retinue of fantastic creatures.

To learn more about this and similar objects, visit http://www.asia.si.edu/SongYuan/default.asp Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy.

Published References
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  • .
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Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum