The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens announced today the acquisition of Zhou Dunyi Admiring Lotuses, a rare hanging scroll painted by Qiu Ying (ca. 1495–ca. 1552), one of the most celebrated Chinese artists of the 16th century. Qiu is regarded as one of the Four Masters of the Ming dynasty, along with Shen Zhou, Tang Yin, and Wen Zhengming. He worked primarily in Suzhou—a city to the west of Shanghai with storied gardens that inspired The Huntington’s renowned Chinese Garden—and became famous for his meticulous depictions of literary themes. The purchase of this work was made possible by June and Simon K.C. Li. June Li was the founding curator of The Huntington’s Chinese Garden until 2014, and Simon K.C. Li is a member of The Huntington’s Board of Trustees. Zhou Dunyi Admiring Lotuses will be on view Dec. 9, 2023, through March 4, 2024, in the Huntington Art Gallery.
Qiu’s works have always been highly valued, and generations of forgers have copied him. One of the few surviving authentic works by the artist, Zhou Dunyi Admiring Lotuses remains in exceptional condition for its age and bears Qiu’s signature and two seals. His use of the seal “Immortal of Shizhou dates the painting to around the 1530s, during the middle of his career.
“We are deeply grateful to June and Simon for making possible this major acquisition of a rare and important work by Qiu Ying,” said Christina Nielsen, Hannah and Russel Kully Director of the Art Museum. “This work finds an ideal home here at The Huntington, and with it, we take a dramatic step forward in our commitment to inviting conversations and cross-curatorial connections among our diverse art, library, and botanical collections.”
Qiu’s scroll depicts the philosopher Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073) relaxing in a thatched pavilion, contemplating the lotuses in the surrounding pond. Behind him, a servant approaches with a cup of tea, and a table bears a group of books and an exquisite celadon vase, allusions to Zhou’s profession and taste. Trees shield the pavilion from the oppressive heat of summer; a waterfall cascades in the distant background. Nearby, a farmer in a rustic boat gathers water vegetables from the pond, humorously interrupting the otherwise elegant composition and contrasting with the philosopher’s leisure.
The work evokes Zhou’s beloved essay “On the Love for the Lotus”, in which he wrote that a gentleperson should rise above the turbidity of society to follow a path of modesty, just as a lotus rises above muddy pond waters to blossom into purity. The essay inspired the name Love for the Lotus Pavilion at The Huntington’s Chinese Garden, whose pavilion overlooks a pond that resembles the one in Qiu’s scroll.
“Few Chinese paintings could more perfectly suit The Huntington and establish it as an important center for the study of Chinese garden arts than this hanging scroll by Qiu Ying,” said Phillip E. Bloom, June and Simon K.C. Li Curator of the Chinese Garden and Director of the Center for East Asian Garden Studies at The Huntington. “The scroll eloquently conveys the interconnectedness of gardens, literature, and painting, and it builds on a foundation already established by other works in The Huntington’s collection.”
Notable Chinese works at The Huntington include a rare and almost complete first edition of the Ten Bamboo Studio Manual of Calligraphy and Painting, which will be on view in a special exhibition from Oct. 7, 2023, through May 27, 2024. The Huntington also holds Chinese ceramics and scrolls, as well as contemporary calligraphy commissioned for the Chinese Garden. The Huntington’s Library holdings include a significant archive of materials for the study of the Pacific Rim.
Zhou Dunyi Admiring Lotuses will be installed in its own room in the Huntington Art Gallery, not far from major 19th-century British landscapes by John Constable and J.M.W. Turner, a newly acquired landscape by David Hockney, and Chinese porcelain collected by Arabella and Henry E. Huntington.
About The Huntington
The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens is a cultural and educational institution of global significance. Building on Henry E. and Arabella Huntington’s renowned collections, The Huntington supports research and promotes education in the arts, humanities, and botanical science through the growth and preservation of its collections; the development of a community of scholars, school programs, and partnerships; and the display and interpretation of its extraordinary resources for diverse audiences. The Huntington is located at 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, California, 12 miles from downtown Los Angeles. Visitor information: huntington.org.