Fish and Rocks

Fish and Rocks


mid- to late 1600s

Bada Shanren 八大山人

(Chinese, 1626-1705)

Handscroll, ink on paper

Overall: 29.2 x 157.4 cm (11 1/2 x 61 15/16 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1953.247



A descendant of a branch of the Ming imperial family in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, Bada Shanren (whose original name is not yet confirmed) lost his princely status after the Manchu conquest. He retreated to Chan Buddhist monasteries where he found solace in the arts, at times feigning insanity to avoid being identified.

Here, Bada juxtaposes sparse images of fish, rocks, and a lotus patch in a simple, free style using few spontaneous brushstrokes. He includes three cryptic poems with themes of alienation, referring perhaps to the fate of the "leftover subject" (yimin) after the fall of the Ming dynasty.

A rock mass with chrysanthemums at the edge is suspended from above. This image is accompanied by the first poem that reads: A foot and a half from heaven, One can see the floating white clouds. Why do I paint the yellow flowers? For amid the clouds is the City of Gold.

A large rock floats in a void and two fish swim in opposite directions by a lotus patch at the base of a cliff. The second poem reads: The Twin Wells was once in mid-stream. A bright moon shines in time and lingers. The twin carp in the Huang family, Where do they go to change into dragons?

The last poem might be accompanied by another fish image (probably a yellowcheek) that has been cut. The poem reads: To this 36,000 qing [of water] Here a fish is coming at last, It is but a yellowcheek. Over the ocean tides rises the sound of sheng [panpipes].

See also
ASIAN - Handscroll
Chinese Art
Type of artwork: 

Contact us

The information about this object, including provenance information, is based on historic information and may not be currently accurate or complete. Research on objects is an ongoing process, but the information about this object may not reflect the most current information available to CMA. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email

To request more information about this object, study images, or bibliography, contact the Ingalls Library Reference Desk.

Is something not working on this page? Please email

Request a digital file from Image Services that is not available through CC0, a detail image, or any image with a color bar. If you have questions about requesting an image, please email