The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of February 28, 2024

Water Buffalo and Herdboys

Water Buffalo and Herdboys

late 1200s–early 1300s
Painting: 23.7 x 50.5 cm (9 5/16 x 19 7/8 in.); Overall with knobs: 109 x 67.6 cm (42 15/16 x 26 5/8 in.)
Location: not on view


In southern China, farmers use water buffalos to help plow their fields, which children often tend. In Buddhist teachings, the subject of herding or taming an ox was used to illustrate the 10 steps to enlightenment, or spiritual awakening. A single image may be read as a metaphorical representation of the Chan process of attaining enlightenment, the difficulty of which was likened to that of finding a strayed buffalo. Here, a buffalo is watered by a boy, another takes a bath in the pond. Chan paintings introduced to Japan were often remounted to fit them into niches for display (tokonoma), which explains the painting’s current format.
  • (Howard C. Hollis [1899–1985], Cleveland, OH, sold to Mr. and Mrs. Leisy)
    Mr. Herbert F. [1900–1977] and Mrs. Helen Stamp Leisy [1906–1975], Cleveland, OH, bequest to the Cleveland Museum of Art
    The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
  • Ho, Wai-kam, Sherman E. Lee, Laurence Sickman, and Marc F. Wilson. Eight Dynasties of Chinese Painting: The Collections of the Nelson Gallery-Atkins Museum, Kansas City, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland Museum of Art, in cooperation with Indiana University Press, 1980. Mentioned and Reproduced: cat. no. 76, pp. 95–96
  • Eight Dynasties of Chinese Painting. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (November 7, 1980-January 4, 1981); The Cleveland Museum of Art (February 11-March 29, 1981); Tokyo National Museum (October 4-November 17, 1982).
    Visions of Landscape: East and West. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (February 17-March 21, 1982).
    China's Southern Paradise: Treasures from the Lower Yangzi Delta. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (organizer) (September 10, 2023-January 7, 2024).
    Main Asian Rotation (Gallery 119). The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH (July 13-November 17, 2004).
  • {{cite web|title=Water Buffalo and Herdboys|url=false|author=|year=late 1200s–early 1300s|access-date=28 February 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

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