Couplet in Seal Script


Artist: Zhao Shigang (1874-1945)
Historical period(s)
Modern period, 1935
Pair of hanging scrolls; ink on gold flecked paper
H x W (image, each): 170.9 x 23.8 cm (67 1/4 x 9 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Freer Gallery of Art
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scrolls

China, Modern period (1912 - present), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, sage, seal script, WWII-era provenance, Zhuangzi
Provenance information is currently unavailable
Previous Owner(s)

Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014


The easy leisure of fish and birds prompts languid
memories of the rivers Hao and Pu;
The rare antiquity of bamboo and stones reminds
one of people from Wei and Jin times.

For the text of this couplet, Zhao Shigang (generally known by his sobriquet, Shuru) has employed two allusions to famous individuals of the distant past. In the first line (right scroll), he mentions the Hao and Pu rivers, closely associated with the eccentric Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi (4th century B.C.E.) who pursued a life of leisure in these locations. The second line (left scroll) refers to a group of non-conformist poets and musicians known as the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, who lived during the Wei (220-265 C.E.) and Western Jin (265-317 C.E.) dynasties and often gathered in a bamboo grove to drink and relax.

Son of a prominent scholar-official family, the artist Zhao Shigang served in various local government positions during the waning years of the Qing dynasty, from 1898 until the beginning of the Republican revolution in late 1911. By early 1912, he had settled in the city of Shanghai, at that time the most important center for the arts in China, and the following year he began his career as a professional artist and art teacher, gaining national recognition for his painting (particularly of horses), calligraphy, and most especially his seal carving. Zhao's elegant calligraphy in ancient seal script, as shown here, is particularly prized.

Published References
  • Robert Hatfield Ellsworth. Later Chinese Painting and Calligraphy: 1800-1950., 1st edition. New York. pp. 329-30, 192.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Whistler's Neighborhood
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with artist