Move to Main Content


Read the following for how to use your keyboard to browse the album:
  • Up: Show photo menu
  • Down: Hide photo menu
  • Left: Last photo
  • Right: Next photo
  • ESC: Leave album
  • Antithetical Couplet with Characters Compiled from Sutra Rock Valley

    Chou Tien-you, Republican era

    This antithetical couplet was created by Zhou Tianyou (fl. 20th century) by compiling twelve characters originally engraved in the “Diamond Sutra of Sutra Rock Valley on Mount Tai.” The original engraving was made by the Northern Qi dynasty Buddhist Monk An Daoyi (518-ca. 580), whose calligraphy occupies a realm straddling clerical and regular scripts, while also including elements of seal script. An Daoyi’s brushwork is rounded and unhurried, with broadly expansive character structures—this creates an effect that is serene, peaceful, and reflective of the Taoist notion that “great skill appears clumsy.” This couplet was formerly held in ROC Army general Huang Chieh’s (1902-1995) private collection; his sons Huang Li-jung and Huang Wen-ju donated it to the NPM. An inscription written on the edge of the couplet reads, “In celebration of old man Jianweng’s great longevity. Written in characters compiled by Chou Tien-you of Linchuan,” with “Jianweng” referring to Huang Chieh. Chou was a native of the city of Fuzhou (in which Linchuan is a district) in China’s Jiangxi province; he associated with painters and calligraphers including Ma Wan-li (1904-1979) and Hsu Pei-hung (1895-1953). Chou reached the level of major general by 1944, and perhaps came to know Huang Chieh during his period of service in the ROC military.

  • Pillar Memorial for the Dharani for the Honorable Ones of the Buddha Peak

    Bai Xilin, Tang dynasty

    This rubbing comes from a stone pillar at Zhuangyan Monastery engraved with Buddhist writings and erected in honor of Renunciate Fajing (dates unknown), known as the “Dharani for the Honorable Ones of the Buddha Peak Pillar.” The inscription extols the power of the Buddhist sutras and also describes how sponsors including Zhang Chubi (dates unknown) and others raised money to erect the monolith in hope that it would bring peace to the vicinity. The calligraphy and engraving were done by Bai Xiling (dates unknown), whose writing bears the stylistic markers of Tang dynasty calligraphy. Both the structures of the individual characters and the overall layout of the piece are clear descendants of the tradition established by the “Preface to the Sagely Teachings in Characters Compiled from the Works of Wang Xizhi.” Bai wrote in a running script with individuated characters, creating upright and balanced columns of text in pursuit of uniformity along the Y axes, but not on the X axes. Diverging from the “Preface to the Sagely Teachings,” Bai primarily opted for angular brush turns, lithely vigorous linework, and character structures that expand along their horizontal axes while tilting up and to the right—these choices effect a robust energy and reveal traces of Li Yong’s (678-747) influence. Although this work was included in The Complete Writings of the Liao Dynasty, there are some who argue that it is actually a product of the Yuan dynasty, indicating a need for further research.

  • Five Ming Dynasty Masters Fundraising Memoranda for Cold Mountain Buddhist Monastery

    Tang Yin, et al, Ming dynasty

    The Cold Mountain Buddhist Monastery in Suzhou, which was originally named Universal Brightness Zen Academy, rose to fame after appearing in Zhang Ji’s (?-779) poem “Mooring by Night at Maple Bridge.” The monastery was repeatedly destroyed by fire, and for this reason a number of Ming dynasty literati wrote documents asking for funds to rebuild the main shrine hall and recast its temple bell. Research has shown that “Raising Money for a Bell,” written by Tang Yin (1470-1524) circa 1522 or 1523 is the earliest such text—with its heroic, free-spirited calligraphic style it stands on par with the works of Li Yong (678-747) and Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322). Tang Yin’s contribution is followed by the memorandum written by Chen Liu (1506-1575) and Zhao Yiguang’s (1559-1625) opening remarks. Zhao was famous for integrating features of running cursive script into seal script, but for his introduction he purposely wrote with a neat and fastidious style so as to demonstrate the sincerity of the fundraising campaign. Chronologically speaking, the latest additions to the scroll are “Non-abiding Charity” by an anonymous scribe, Fan Yulin’s (1558-1641) memorandum written in 1618, and Mao Kan’s (16th-17th centuries) memorandum. These calligraphic works happened to appear during Dong Qichang’s (1555-1636) period of fame and received his influence. The above works were collected and mounted into the long scroll seen here by Bi Long (1733-1797).

  • Auspicious Image of a Majestically Adorned Bodhisattva Attributed to Ding Yunpeng

    Anonymous, Qing dynasty

    Ding Yunpeng (1548-after 1628) had the style name Nanyu and the sobriquet “Recluse of the Sagely Fluorescence” (Shenghua Jushi). He was renowned for his transformative painting style.

    This painting portrays Guanyin, revered in Buddhism as the bodhisattva of compassion, with shoulder-length blue hair and a bejeweled crown, standing atop lotuses while wearing sheer robes and adorned with all manner of necklaces and garlands made from precious gems. The brushwork and coloration are meticulous, with not a single flaw to be found in the painting’s numerous floral patterns. The artist used a rich, splendid color palette that feels somewhat eccentric. Guanyin’s facial features, hands, and feet were shaded using ink washes so as to create a sense of three dimensionality. Although this work was signed with the date 1609, the painting is actually stylistically divergent from Ding Yunpeng’s works, indicating that this piece might have painted on the basis of one of Ding’s sketches.

  • Realm of Ultimate Bliss

    Ding Guanpeng, Qing dynasty

    Ding Guanpeng (fl. 1726-1771) was a prominent court painter who served during the reign of Qing dynasty emperor Qianlong.

    This work, painted in 1759, illustrates descriptions of the Western Realm of Ultimate Bliss found in the Sutra of the Meditation on the Buddha of Immeasurable Life. Light radiates from the head of the image’s primary deity, Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha is attended by Bodhisattva Guanyin on one side, offering a jewel-encrusted tower, and Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta on the other side, offering a lotus. Above them are auspicious clouds and a palace adorned with the seven treasures (gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, cornelian, rubies, and emeralds), while beneath them are bodhisattvas, arhats, celestial devas, and heavenly musicians who have gathered to hear Amitabha expound upon the Dharma. In the lowest portion of the painting are children, Buddhist monks, bodhisattvas and other figures who represent the “nine grades of rebirth in the Pure Land.” This painting is rich in content, with expertly-rendered forms and dazzling coloration. It also makes use of perspective painting techniques that came to China from the occident in order to evoke the Pure Land’s magnificence.

  • Kesi Realm of Ultimate Bliss

    Anonymous, Qing dynasty

    This piece of kesi silk tapestry was created by the Jiangning Imperial Textile Workshop on the basis of Ding Guanpeng’s (fl. 1726-1771) 1759 painting entitled “Realm of Ultimate Bliss.” In the field of text at the top of the scroll is an inscription made by Qing dynasty emperor Qianlong (1711-1799), suggesting that this work was likely completed after 1782. The work reflects Qianlong’s artistic predilection for displaying multiple versions of the same image produced with different media in the halls of the imperial palaces. The various human figures, animals, plants, buildings, and adornments in this piece of kesi silk tapestry are quite close in form to those depicted in the original painting. However, not only was the color saturation reduced, the overall color scheme was changed so that blue and green tones dominate. These alterations give more prominence to the Western Pure Land’s atmosphere of coolness, magnificence, and serenity.