Leaping Carp

Leaping Carp



Liu Jie 劉節

(Chinese, c. 1447-1520s)

Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk

Image: 140.5 x 83.7 cm (55 5/16 x 32 15/16 in.); Overall: 226 x 101.2 cm (89 x 39 13/16 in.); with knobs: 226 x 109.5 cm (89 x 43 1/8 in.)

John L. Severance Fund 1977.55


Did you know?

The clusters of geometric leaves painted with mineral pigments are likely water caltrap.


With a fine ink line and graded wash, the life-like depiction of these swiftly moving carp is representative of the high quality of works by Liu Jie, a Ming dynasty court painter known for his fish paintings. The artist’s signature and seal are in the painting’s top left corner.

The carp is an auspicious and popular subject in Chinese painting. Here, the leaping carp can be associated with “a carp jumping the dragon gate,” which according to mythology transforms into a dragon, emblematic of a scholar’s success in passing the civil service examinations. Another reading suggests that this carp is not leaping but guiding his offspring in worshipping heaven.

See also
Chinese Art
Type of artwork: 

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